Posted on: March 22, 2021, 04:33h.
Last updated on: March 22, 2021, 05:06h.
Golden Gate Fields owner the Stronach Group is suing four members of an animal rights group who disrupted races by lying down on the track March 4, FOX 2 of the Bay Area reports.
The four activists from Berkeley, California-based group Direct Action Everywhere (DAE) caused the cancellation of one race and the postponement of six others at the San Francisco-area track.
The lawsuit, filed March 9 in Alameda County Superior Court, is seeking monetary damages, legal fees, and a permanent injunction banning DAE members from the track.
Locked Down on the Track
It is alleged the group intentionally trespassed in an effort to sabotage the track’s business, and that it put horses and employees at risk by doing so.
It names 43-year-old Omar Aicardi of Modesto, 28-year-old Rachel Ziegler of Oakland, 32-year-old Rocky Chau of San Francisco, 29-year-old James Crom of Oakland, and DAE itself.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants scaled a fence to gain access to the track. A DAE press release from March 4 describes how the four then “locked down” on the track between “heavily-weighted PVC pipes in a direct-action maneuver called a ‘sleeping dragon.’”
They then lit purple smoke flares, the release said. A small crowd of DAE members protested outside the venue with banners, according to the activist group.
The four activists were arrested, cited for trespassing, and released, according to Albany police.
The racing industry has been under intense scrutiny since early 2019, when the deaths of 23 horses over three months at Santa Anita Park brought the issue of horse welfare into sharp focus.
Last year, 27 horses died at Golden Gate Fields. Six have died so far this year.
Citing these deaths, DAE is calling for the track’s closure and supports a statewide or nationwide ban on the sport.
“This is a brutal industry that exploits horses, it exploits workers, it exploits people with gambling addiction, and we’re standing with a rising majority of the public in saying that we’re better off without places like that,” DAE spokesman Matt Johnson told Fox.
It’s pretty hilarious, actually, how they are talking about we are a danger to the horses. It’s completely, ironically hilarious,” Johnson added.
The Stronach Group noted that part of the facility at Golden Gate Fields had become a COVID-19 vaccination center, which was forced to close during the protest, resulting in the cancellation of around 200 appointments.
Johnson said Stronach highlighted this in a “desperate attempt to deflect blame and attention from the horror show [the track] is for horses and humans.”