Save a chicken - face a felony?
Protestors with Direct Action Everywhere are calling on Sonoma County’s district attorney to drop charges against three activists, and on Wednesday they gathered outside the Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa.
"Same struggle! Same fight!" Protestors chanted. "Human freedom! Animal rights!"
A trial date has been set for September 8 in a criminal case against three animal rights advocates who allegedly rescued sick and dying birds from two poultry farms in Petaluma, once in 2018 and again in 2019.
Authorities see the incidents differently though - charging the activists with theft and burglary.
It hasn’t stopped members of Berkeley-based Direct Action Everywhere - the animal rights group known in shorthand as DxE - from calling on the DA's office to drop the charges, said DxE activist Samantha Faye.
"We were really hoping that with a new DA and a new sheriff, that they would be progressive enough or that they would be understanding enough and trying to uphold the law enough, to overturn or to drop all of these felony charges on activists and instead charge the factory farms and slaughterhouses with felonies," Faye said.
Cassie King, a member of DxE and defendant in the upcoming trial, said she’s ready for the chance to give her account to a jury.
"It's scary, but I'm also grateful that there is this opportunity," King said. "And finally, there is a trial date set after over four years of this case dragging on because we want our day in court. We want the animals to have their day in court. We want Rose and Bruce and the individuals who were rescued at these actions to have their chance to get some justice."
DxE has consistently targeted large poultry operations in Sonoma County - most recently at Petaluma Poultry’s facility on Lakeville Highway.
The group's militant tactics have garnered controversy, but King said she feels the public will understand their fight when they see conditions within the farms.
"I think the right to rescue campaign captures something that most people already know and feel in their hearts, that someone who is suffering, who's in need of help, deserves to be helped, deserves to be rescued from the situation where they're being harmed," King said. "And whether that's a dog in a hot car or a human who's injured on the side of the road, or a chicken who's collapsed and starving to death on the floor of a factory farm."
DxE activists emerged victorious in a criminal trial in Utah late last year over a rescue at a Smithfield pig farm.
The Sonoma County District Attorney's office declined to comment on the case.