Tuesday, January 21, 2014
On Thursday January 9th, I went to the Amway Center to sketch protestors demonstrating against animal abuse at Ringling Brother's and Barnam Bailey Circus. It rained the whole trip downtown, but my phone radar application showed that the storm system would be passing over leaving a clearing for the duration of a sketch. Protestors gathered under the I-4 overpass at Church Street and South Hughey Avenue. Barricades were set up, but I was told that they were for scalpers who had to remain behind them.
About 30 protesters lined up in front of the barricades and on either side of the street. A protestor on a bull horn told people taking their children to the circus that they needed to pay attention to see if the animals in the show did the tricks willingly or to see if they were being poked and prodded by the handlers. On a humorous note, he said that the elephants don't show up on the evening of the performance in a taxi excited to perform. They have to perform or they will be beaten and jabbed.
One sign showed a bull hook which is used to injure elephants in the show. Video on a Ringling Cruelty site show elephants being beaten right before going in front of an audience. Handlers try to keep the bull hooks from the audiences view, but as the guy on the bull horn said, "They might feel they are pulling one over on you, but we feel you are smarter than that." Hurricane Maria was handing out information fliers. She did the task with a Disney smile and a warm greeting. Some parents however get upset and argue that they will spend their money how they please. As the guy on the bull horn announced, "The elephants are poked and prodded to perform!" A women who over heard him said, "That sounds like how my husband treats me!"
Kelly Medford, a plein air painter from Rome stopped out to sketch the protest as well. She couldn't find parking and showed up just as I was finishing up my sketch. She was set with an easel and canvas but the protest was almost over. The Ringling show started at 7:30pm and then the protestors packed up. A faint mist settled in as I was putting the final washed on my sketch. I didn't even notice until my hand smudged the paint. I quickly put the sketchbook away but the damage was done. The sketch glistened and when I closed the book paint smeared everywhere creating a Rorshach pattern. I groaned. I'd have to fix it back at the studio where it was dry. Kelly and I took cover under an awning and chatted for a while. She stayed behind to finish her sketch and I walked back to my car where I touched up the sketch a bit.