Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell -- Shawn Herbold, a PETA intern working in Norfolk Va., center, puts on her robe after a demonstration today in Miller Park against eating meat. PETA is being asked to leave the park by a City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation park ranger, Todd Weller, left, for disturbing the peace.
Protesters ended early their pro-vegetarian demonstration near Miller Park this morning after they said city officials asked them to leave.
Passersby near the intersection of Market Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard gawked at a nearly naked woman covered in fake blood and wrapped in cellophane on a tray on the sidewalk — to simulate packaged meat — with a banner reading “Meat is Murder” held above her.
“They’re not breaking a law by protesting, but breaking the law by disturbing the peace,” city of Chattanooga park ranger Todd Weller said.
Ashley Byrne of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said they planned to stage the demonstration on a public sidewalk instead of obtaining a permit for an event in the park.
“What we were doing was legal, but I wasn’t going to let anybody get arrested,” she said, adding Mr. Weller asked them to move.
However, city parks and police officials couldn’t agree on who asked the protesters to leave.
Kevin Brady, Parks and Facilities Maintenance director, said he received a call from a park ranger asking whether PETA had an event permit for Miller Park, and the group didn’t. However, public sidewalks are out of the Park and Recreation’s jurisdiction, he said.
“We don’t enforce these rules,” Mr. Brady said. “The police asked them to leave because they were causing traffic problems.”
But police didn’t ask the protesters to leave, Chattanooga police Lt. Eric Tucker said. He said a patrol supervisor stopped by to ensure the demonstration didn’t violate any indecent exposure or disturbing the peace laws and the woman wrapped in cellophane was safe.
“We went down there and checked it out,” Lt. Tucker said. “There was no problem as far as we know.”
The PETA group didn’t have time to set up elsewhere because the four-person crew had to leave for a demonstration in Nashville this afternoon, Ms. Byrne said.
Chattanooga was the third stop on a 10-city tour to commemorate World Vegetarian Week. The group had no trouble with the same act Monday at North Carolina stops in Asheville and Greensboro, she said
The shock of the scene should force some people to consider adopting a vegetarian diet, Ms. Byrne said.
“People might be seeing us and complaining,” she said. “If it bothers them, they should not be supporting the meat industry.”