October 7, 2012
Protesters storm Marineland in Niagara Falls
By DAN DAKIN and COREY LAROCQUE QMI Agency
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -- More than 100 animal-welfare protesters stormed the gates of Marineland Sunday afternoon, escalating their tactics against the Niagara Falls amusement park they say is responsible for mistreating its whales, dolphins and other animals.
“They were just trying to convince people this is not a friendly place,” said Saliy Shaker, a Kitchener, Ont., woman who was part of a group that forced its way into the park.
Some members of the placard-toting crowd got into the auditorium and disrupted an ongoing marine mammal show.
The protest happened on closing day at the tourist attraction, which shuts down during the winter.
Marineland Animal Defense, which organizes weekend protests, had scheduled its last demonstration for noon.
Organizer Dylan Powell estimated the crowd to be 600 at its peak. They assembled on a grassy boulevard – public property – along Portage Road starting around noon and were waving signs and chanting.
“Their blood, their blood, their blood is on your hands,” they chanted to families going into the park.
At 1:18 p.m., hundreds walked past the ticket booths and into the park without paying while two Niagara Regional Police officers, who had been monitoring the protest, tried in vain to keep them back.
At one point, Marineland owner John Holer arrived in his truck, got out and approached the group, but a police officer sent him back to his vehicle to stop a potential confrontation.
Approximately five minutes later, more Niagara Falls police and Niagara Parks Police officers arrived, followed by an ambulance and a fire truck.
Police were able to clear the crowd from the auditorium and remove them from the park without incident.
Protesters – some with megaphones – began taunting police, mocking them for spending Thanksgiving with them, but also hurling insults about cheese-smuggling and drug-smuggling, two controversies that have plagued the force recently.
An officer and former officer were charged in September as part of a cheese smuggling ring. In April, another officer was charged with conspiring to smuggle drugs into Canada. Those cases are still before the courts.
“These animals are your citizens too. Protect them,” one woman called to police.
The protest ended about 3:30 p.m. with one Hamilton, Ont., woman charged with trespassing -- a provincial offences charge -- and issued a $65 fine, which she said she will fight.