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Secret Service Visits Animal Advocates’ Homes, Charges Activist Over Bernie Sanders Protest

Activists Decry “Trump-Style Repression” Over Presidential Primary Rally Disruption

March 8, 2017, Berkeley, CA – Yesterday, Secret Service agents issued a court summons for advocate Paul Darwin Picklesimer with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and visited his parents in connection with a protest at a Bernie Sanders rally in June 2016. The agents also repeatedly called and sought to meet another advocate, Damayanti Valle. Advocates unfurled signs and chanted for Sanders to oppose animal agriculture at a rally in Modesto, California. When Picklesimer revealed his sign, Secret Service agents forcibly pulled him over the barricade and injured him. The activists say the Secret Service’s aggressive pursuit of them nine months after the protest fits a pattern of anti-activist measures being pursued by President Trump’s administration.

“Last June I was manhandled and yanked over a railing for doing nothing more than chanting and holding a sign crying out for animals to be treated fairly,” said Pickelsimer. “This charge is an attempt by a newly-aggressive Trump government to stop those who would dare speak the truth about our society’s violent ways toward animals.”

DxE activists in the back of the room unfurled a banner declaring “Animal Liberation is Social Justice” as Picklesimer and Valle held signs at the front during Sanders’ campaign speech. Secret Service agents grabbed Picklesimer, pulled him over the barricade, threw him on the ground, and carried him off in handcuffs.

The Modesto protest followed a disruption two days earlier in Oakland, and both garnered national headlines from ABC News to Reuters.  The activists were protesting Sanders’ ties to the dairy industry and indifference toward animal rights. They had sent the Sanders campaign a policy memo prior to the action, criticizing his support for agricultural subsidies for large corporations that torture animals.

DxE activists say the charges are unsurprising given President Donald Trump, who repeatedly attacked protesters during the presidential campaign and has continued to do so in office. Moreover, the activists say, animal industries have routinely sought to stifle dissent, passing “ag-gag” laws to penalize whistleblowing on farms and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to make activism a federal offense. The Secret Service’s actions are a perfect wedding of the two, advocates say.

“This preposterous charge and these unwarranted steps are designed to chill dissent,” said attorney Sona Mohnot.

The summons follows two other recent attempts to prosecute DxE activist Diane Gandee Sorbi who had rescued a sick hen from an egg farm in California; and Ateret Goldman and Maximilian Knight, who are currently embroiled in a controversy in Boulder, Colorado following a protest at Whole Foods. The charges against Sorbi were dropped following public outcry in support of her.

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is a network of animal rights activists working to challenge speciesism throughout society.  We use creative protest to challenge the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment.  Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at  Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.