We drove into Holley early afternoon 2/16/13 – nobody there to direct us where to park. So we parked on the street, asked a cop in a car if that’s okay (yes), then he directed us to AR protesters on Thomas St.
Thomas St was closed to traffic that day. There was no barricade for the pro-hunters who stood by the old Sandstone building on corner of Thomas and Main/Public Sq. We walked past them to the other end of Thomas St where AR protesters were directed to stand, behind a (very open) barricade. When I asked a cop there to confirm where we could legally stand, or not stand (sidewalks, yards, etc), he shrugged and pleasantly said “it doesn’t matter, anywhere you want is fine”.
AR protesters who’d arrived at 1pm for the police press conference told us of the death threat made to them moments earlier by a man (Gregory Roth of Hilton NY), in the presence of police, caught on video … and that Edita Brinkrant (FoA) was now in the police station, pressing charges: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UOp6mpn59ew
YNN interviewed me, and as someone born and raised in nearby Medina (Orleans County), I hoped they’d air it. I stated my opinions of the Squirrel Slam, and that it’s irresponsible to teach children the unethical practice of massacring animals. However, as happened to many advocates also interviewed, YNN did not air my interview on TV.
Weather was bitter cold(!!!!) … most AR activists dressed appropriately, but those who didn’t ended up having to leave early because of it. Most who dressed for the weather made it through till the protest ended.
We soon found ourselves drawn back to the corner of Thomas/Public Sq. AR-and-anti’s gradually separated claiming our respective spaces. AR protesters held the corner by the sandstone building, and adjacent corner. Pro-hunters (aka *anti’s* meaning anti-AR) stood on the opposite two corners, plus two on the street between AR protesters. Approx 30 police were scattered about, all on foot, generally pleasant and easy to talk to. The size of both groups varied all day: AR group grew (guesstimating) to ~100, but dwindled to ~30 by 5:45pm; pro-hunters began with ~30 and grew to (again, guesstimating) ~75 by day’s end. One AR protester independently decided to stand amidst the anti’s … a heart-balloon was attached to her sign which (I think) read *Give ‘dem Squirrels a Gun*. Amazingly, they seemed to leave her alone!
Anti’s had signs too … *Tastes Like Chicken*, *We Support Hunters*, etc (see photos and videos). ‘Dancing Derrick’ is a professional hired around Holley for various events; he dressed as a skunk, climbed on his pick-up, turned on his music (hip hop?), held a toy gun, and danced around, mocking ARs. The majority of anti’s wore camouflage; among them stood several teenage girls, and the number of children grew.
The day began rather calmly as we took our places. Gradually, comments were shouted back and forth from both sides. And then the chanting began …
*CASH and GUNS FOR DEAD SQUIRRELS …
SHAME on HOLLEY, NEW YORK!*
Megaphones used by Edita Brinkrant (FoA-NYC) and Morgan Dunbar (Animal Allies WNY-Buffalo) were a must for this particular protest. In-between chants, Edita megaphoned to the residents why we were there: unethical to kill animals, choose other ways to raise funds for HFD, teaching children to kill innocent animals is the wrong message, that they were killing pregnant mother squirrels (babies due soon), on and on. Morgan added similar statements, and added that Holley should consider how much extra money it’s costing for them to have to hire additional police just for today’s event.
And then the cars started coming in … hunters returning to HFD (Holley Fire Dept) with their kill. Honks, cheers, shouts, the anti’s were thrilled. Hunters joined them and their crowd grew. More and more cars, louder and louder the day. We/ARs continued chanting.
Then we saw a man with a gun, a rifle, walking straight up Main Street past all of us. He held his gun under one arm by his side, pointed up (not at us), and kept a steady, determined gait. Pro-hunters cheered like crazy, while ARs screamed for the police to “do something”!!! Terrifying moment! The police indeed went after him. As I understand it (someone correct if this is wrong), he was a hunter walking to his destination, not aiming to hurt anyone there, and I believe the police quickly got it all under control without actual incident. But it was totally terrifying for us and traumatizing for many. You can see him from the back on the local TV videos.
Crowds got louder. Our chants continued. And then … cars started coming from the opposite direction, with a dead squirrel nailed to the front grill of the car, and tied to antennae, and someone waving the poor dead body in his hand … on AR side of course … as they sailed past, honking, screaming with laughter, taunting us all the way. Over and over, the car drove around (I hear there was more than one car doing this). Again, we complained and the police finally made them stop. AR protesters were now additionally traumatized and sickened, angrier, and chanting louder.
As things became more intense, our chant became one loud, solid:
*SHAME ON HOLLEY! SHAME ON HOLLEY!*
And then, the real trauma began. Some hunters had been streaming past ARs, carrying plastic (wegmans) bags with what you could see was the shape of a dead squirrel (maybe several). We’d boo and hiss at them, but that was nothing compared to what was to come. Emerging from the crowd of pro-hunters across the street, now came a single-file line of hunters in camouflage, each carrying the actual unbagged bodies of several dead squirrels, hanging from their murderous hands. Rather than walk down Thomas St which was closed to traffic, but wide open for anyone to walk down to the HFD with their kill … but instead, they came straight for our group, walked boldly between what little space there was, pushed their way through our crowd, laughing and swinging the dead bodies of our little furry friends (swinging down by the hunters’ legs). I won’t put here what every one of us was shouting at them then!! And I feel physically ill just writing this to inform you as it’s bringing it all back to me so vividly. The police kinda’ followed them is all, didn’t stop them, just made sure they got through our crowd without attacking us or being attacked.
Keep in mind that Edita had already understood the agreement made with Holley police and officials was that hunters of all ages were supposed to enter HFD around the other side, and that we were never ever supposed to see any dead squirrels at all!!! When confronted with that, one police insisted “oh, that wasn’t a rule, it was just a guideline (shrug)”. Please note, yes, everyone I know of is enraged by this … this is not how Edita/Friends of Animals understood it was to be.
Some AR activists left immediately after that – it was way too traumatic (my stomach hurts just writing this, but I’m determined to get this info to you now). And some of us who thought we could somehow make it a little longer stayed together to the end of the protest.
Awhile later, another line of hunters marched through our crowd. This time, a big guy leading the single file line came directly at me, again rather than taking the wide-open street a few feet over . He plowed his right shoulder directly into my chest and right shoulder. He almost knocked me over (I honestly don’t know how I stayed standing). I immediately yelled for the police, one came right over, I told him what just happened, and he said “I didn’t see it” … I stared him in the eye and said “yeah, I know you didn’t” (intending to shame him). He asked if I could ID which one it was, but I couldn’t … they all dressed alike and it all happened so fast. But from then on, that cop became friendly and stood directly in front of me (within a foot) each time the rest of the hunters plowed through our crowd.
Little by little, the crowd of pro-hunters dwindled. Edita called for the AR protest to end a little before 6:00pm, and we hugged goodbye. Greg and I had 2-police escort us back to our car on Main Street. Good thing as we passed a big crowd of hunters just lingering up the street; we passed by without incident, jumped quickly into our car, and drove home.
I’m sure there are plenty more details we can all share about that day in Holley NY. Please add what you want so we’ll all stay informed. And if I think of more details I forgot here, I’ll add them too. It was indeed a heavy day.
Many, many thanks to Edita Birnkrant, Val, Marcus, Friends of Animals, for all you did to organize this protest. And unending thanks to all the activists who participated in this painful yet critically important protest. And to those who wanted to be there but could not, your support in spirit was surely felt … it kept us going, kept us standing for the duration ~ thank you.
We have much more work to do, folks. Now we need to work wholeheartedly on legislation, to BAN ALL KILLING CONTESTS in NYS! This ‘Squirrel Slam’ is merely one of many such contests of many animals, and we need to put an end to ALL of them, by law.
United We Stand For the Animals,
~Lois Baum, President
Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate NY
*The squirrel that you kill in jest dies in earnest*.
~Henry David Thoreau