Animal rights activists march from San Francisco to Sacramento, seeking ‘right to rescue’

Animal rights activists made a stop in Davis on Monday afternoon as they marched from San Francisco’s City Hall to the Capitol in Sacramento.

The group of 17 people, organized by the Bay Area animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, sat outside Trader Joe’s on towels and sleeping bags, soaking their feet in coolers, and wearing neon yellow shirts saying “Support the Right to Rescue.”

At 3:15 p.m. they stood and started walking the last 13 miles of the day – including a swing through the UC Davis campus.

Tuesday morning, they planned to rise before 3 a.m. to finish the last seven miles of their trip – organized, they say, to help them gain recognition of the legal right to rescue animals in inhumane conditions.

They hope they will arrive at the Capitol in time to visit a hearing for Assembly Bill 44, which would ban the sale of fur in California.

“We’re hoping to get a response from Governor Newsom and Attorney General Becerra because we want them to support the right to rescue,” said Priya Sawhney, a march organizer.

They left San Francisco’s City Hall on July 3, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County.

“We decided to take the long way because we wanted to go through Sonoma County and talk to people around the area,” said Almira Tanner, one of the 17 marchers.

On July 4, they protested at Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma, the same location where Direct Action Everywhere activists staged a daylong protest last month in which they alleged cruel conditions for the birds, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

According to a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department news release, 10 protesters initially were arrested after trying to take birds off the property. Ultimately, 98 were taken into custody, mostly on trespassing allegations, after they demanded to be arrested.

The sheriff’s news release said the group had “a history of trespassing, assault and stealing animals from Petaluma area livestock farms.”

A 2014 investigation of the farm by Sonoma County authorities, prompted by earlier allegations from the activists, found that it followed normal slaughterhouse procedures, the Chronicle reported at the time.

Sawhney is among six Direct Action Everywhere activists facing felony charges for their efforts in Sonoma County, according to the group’s website.

Sawhney also faces felony charges for approaching Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on stage at a conference in Las Vegas in June, the Associated Press reported.

The marchers on Monday said they will request that the government intervene in the prosecution of activists. Often, they say, activists are arrested for legally rescuing animals who face criminal cruelty. “You see the police arresting us, instead of investigating criminal behavior,” Sawhney said.

“After years of investigating these farms, we’ve had zero response from government officials,” Sawhney said.

Tanner said that along the way, locals have been supportive. They have been sleeping in motels and on the floors of organizers’ homes, and waking up early in the morning.

“We’ve been leaving at 5:30 or 6 to beat the heat,” Tanner said.

Tiffany Worthington, a massage therapist based in Santa Cruz, has been trailing the group and providing services out of the back of a car.

“Their feet are just tortured,” Worthington said. “I help on the fly when they’ve stopped. We’ve been dissolving Epsom salts in warm water, which works well.”

The youngest member of the group, 18-year-old Matthew McKeefry, lives in Ballymena, Ireland, and heard about the march at a conference.

“My arches are pretty sore, but we’re almost there,” he said.

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Elliot Wailoo, from Yale University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee interested in prison systems, police, and education. He is originally from New Jersey.