By Stephanie Pratt BA ’13, Graduate Admission Coordinator
For as long as I recall, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution included the right to speak freely and peacefully assemble. Today, however, I sit confused, staring at a plea made by Father Roy Bourgeois, leader of the SOA Watch. This plea is a result of a permit refusal and the silencing of a beautiful and necessary movement. This movement, which is very dear to my heart, as well as many others of the Ursuline community, is the progression to close the School of the Americas.
On June 22, 2013 people from all over the world attended a historic protest for pets in New York City. you might ask what could New York City possibly be doing with pets to attract the attention of people in England, New Zealand, Australia, and a philosophy professor from Ursuline College. The fact is that the Animal Control policies in NYC are outrageous. Hundreds of perfectly healthy, happy dogs and cats are held in areas where the public cannot see them and are killed regularly. Demand by a volunteer organization, Urgent NYC, have forced changes into these policies and these volunteers, including myself, have saved over 16,000 dogs and 11,000 cats since the beginning of the Urgent program. We still say that this is not good enough.
The goals of this protest were to demand that the mass killing of pets in NYC stop immediately and that city leaders implement no kill policies for shelter pets, to demand that shelters are built in Queens and the Bronx, to demand a repeal of breed based dogs bans in the city and an end to the targeting of some breeds for death, and, finally, to demand a criminal investigation into the practices of the ACC officers who work inside of the existing shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island.
This protest is the first of its kind because of the kinds of demands that were made as well as because individual pets who fell victim to the shelter rules were honored. Another important difference this protest made was to change the image of protesters. When many people think of protesters they think of the young people who did much of the protesting during the 1960’s. Kate Riviello, the founder of New York Animal Rights Alliance, believes that it is important to update the ideas about protesters to meet the current conditions and to change the way that protesters are thought of. To that end many protesters wore protest T-shirts with dress pants or with red suits. Kate believes that stereotypes of protesters often keep many people from taking us seriously and from joining in for causes that they otherwise would join.
While our demands have not been met the protest was still a success because it was very well attended and because we raised awareness of the plight of shelter pets in New York City. More people have joined in the effort to save the pets and more and more pressure is being put on Mayor Bloomberg to keep his campaign promises to the pets in the Bronx and Queens. In any case, everyone knows that the world is watching.