Bernie Sanders got a warm Bay Area welcome on Monday when animal rights activists rushed the stage where the senator was delivering a speech. The activists interrupted Sanders during a speech in front of Oakland's city hall where up to 13,000 supporters were gathered, according to Oakland police officials.
The activists were quickly apprehended, but they got close enough to the stage to make one Secret Service agent hug the presidential candidate in a protective embrace. The activists, all members of the animal liberation network, Direct Action Everywhere, interrupted Sanders’ speech for 60-seconds.
Almost all of the activists who participated in the action are in their early twenties and traveled to the Bay Area for an animal rights convention where they learned about non-violent actions. They say Sanders should have a more radical platform for animal rights.
“We want to see Sanders make a statement of full equality for all species to reflect the true progressive values he claims he stands for,” said Aidan Cook, one of five protesters to jump a barricade and approach the stage where Sanders was delivering his speech.
Cook, 21, said there were 13 activists who attempted to jump the barricade, but only five of them were able to make it to the other side. The remaining protesters were blocked by Secret Service agents or Sanders supporters.
Members of Direct Action Everywhere say they want all animals out of places where they can be exploited. “That means not raising animals for any human interest, taking them out of these hellish condition, factory farms, laboratories or crammed into cages at a fur farm,” said Cook, who traveled to the Bay Area from Colorado.
Cook criticized Sanders for being the Democratic senator with the most donations from the agribusiness sector.
In the organization's press release, activists make clarify that they “do not protest at Bernie Sanders rallies in opposition to Sanders himself, but rather to pull Sanders in their direction.” The group has advocated for animals to be protected under the Constitution, according to ABC News.
“Bernie is a very progressive candidate but the one thing he’s not progressive about are animal rights,” said Rachel Ziegler, who started a chapter of the grassroots group in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
“Bernie Sanders claims to support the ‘good’ farms,” said Ziegler, “but as our repeated investigations have shown, even the ‘good’ farms are horrific.”
Ziegler, 23, said members from Direct Action Everywhere chapters from across the country were in nearby Berkeley for an annual forum hosted by the grassroots group.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Sanders supporters say the senator has co-sponsored legislation that protects the interests of animals and point to a 100% rating in a report card issued by the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
The activists say the senator has to go beyond the issues measured in the scorecard.
“I don’t think there’s anyway you can be progressive and also be for hurting animals,” said Cook.
The activists were detained and released shortly after. An Oakland police official said no arrests were made during the event.