In a surprise move, law enforcement in Sonoma County suddenly appeared during a DxE protest march. The three animal rights activists arrested were demanding authorities investigate evidence of animal cruelty.
Los Angeles, California, December 4th, 2023 – In what looks to be an escalation of hostilities against the animal rights movement, Sonoma County law enforcement interrupted a march by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), a fast-growing animal liberation organization, to grab and cuff 3 animal rights activists and haul them off to jail. This happened on Thursday, November 30th, while UnchainedTV was live with a panel of experts reporting on the sentencing of Direct Action Everywhere co-founder Wayne Hsiung, an attorney who was convicted of 3 trespass-related offenses connected to mass open rescues at enormous chicken and duck factories in Sonoma County. “Open rescue” operates on the premise that rescuing sick and suffering animals from inside factory farms is not a crime, but rather a necessity because law enforcement refuses to act on evidence of animal cruelty inside the factory farming industry.
Cuffed but Not Cowed
Ironically, the 3 arrests occurred as the marchers were on their way to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office to hand in more evidence of what Direct Action Everywhere says is criminal animal cruelty at the Sonoma County animal factories at the heart of Wayne Hsiung’s case. Zoe Rosenberg, a well-known activist who founded the Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary, said she initially thought the cops were approaching her to get the folder of information she wanted to give them, only to be disappointed when they announced, “We have a warrant for your arrest.”
In handcuffs, the 21-year old Rosenberg was taken to an interrogation room where she was informed of her mounting legal problems. She now faces 7 felonies and 6 misdemeanors connected to her activism in animal rescue. If convicted on all counts, she could face up to 20 years in prison.
Nevertheless, Rosenberg has since publicly declared, “I want the world to know that I am not afraid, because nothing the legal system can do to me, including depriving me of a (medical) device I rely on to survive, will ever compare to the atrocities that take place every day…” in the animal factories she investigates. The two men, Rocky Chau and Conrad de Jesus, each face one count of felony conspiracy to trespass and one count of misdemeanor trespass, the same charges that resulted in the conviction of Wayne Hsiung.
Wayne Is About to Walk Free & Appeal
Given the time served since his November 2nd conviction and California’s half-time policy, Hsiung is just days away from walking out of jail a free man. However, in an usual move that was highly criticized by Hsiung’s supporters, Judge Laura Passaglia, a former prosecutor who issued a series of harsh rulings against the defense, declared that Hsiung cannot have any contact with 14 alleged co-conspirators. They include Priya Sawhney, who – along with Hsiung – founded Direct Action Everywhere and who is taking care of his dog while he is incarcerated.
Also on the no-contact list is Zoe Rosenberg, which hampers Hsiung – a former constitutional law professor who successfully defended himself in a Utah trial and won an acquittal for actress Alexandra Paul in a California animal rescue case earlier this year, from offering direct legal counsel to Rosenberg. Hsiung is also scheduled to go on trial in Wisconsin in March along with fellow activist Paul Picklesimer who is another person on the no-contact list. How can they go on trial together while staying 100 yards apart and having no contact? That is a conundrum that Judge Passaglia may not have adequately considered.
Hsiung Urges Activists: Turn Fear into Change
Writing from behind bars about the arrests of Rosenberg, de Jesus and Chau, Hsiung decried the tactics of law enforcement. Hsiung’s essay, entitled “How to Make Repression Backfire,” summarized the latest Sonoma legal drama this way.
“I assumed the state and industry would try to ride the momentum of my conviction to go after more activists. And the apocalyptic rhetoric of the industry representatives at my sentencing hearing — the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ were repeatedly used to describe people holding flowers — predicted the response would be heavy-handed.
“But sweeping people up at a peaceful march surprised even me. The authorities could have just put a legal complaint in the mail. (Indeed, that’s what they did with my case!) A public arrest, with the use of secret police, seems a clear intimidation tactic…
“But here is the key thing: fear is not an inevitable response. Indeed, arrests such as those that occurred on November 30 can supercharge a movement rather than stop it. It all depends on how supporters of the movement react. If we mobilize rather than withdraw, we can turn fear into change.”
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Jane Velez-Mitchell is an award-winning TV journalist and New York Times best-selling author. She is the founder of UnchainedTV and the host of several shows on the network.