PETA filed a lawsuit last Thursday morning against the City of Pasadena and PPD Chief Phillip L. Sanchez challenging the city’s failure to comply with PETA’s Public Records Act requests for records relating to “Thomas Jones,” the Sea World protester who attempted to incite animal advocates to perform illegal acts and was recently exposed as SeaWorld employee Paul T. McComb. PETA says “other SeaWorld agents are expected to be revealed in time.”
PETA submitted the requests in a move designed to uncover the scope of SeaWorld’s relationship with the PPD, given that “Jones” evidently informed the PPD of PETA’s plan to engage in a traditional, peaceful act of civil disobedience—sitting down in front of SeaWorld’s float—during the 2014 Rose Parade. The PPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) clearly had knowledge of PETA’s plan (and seemingly an exaggerated version of it), as they sent more than a dozen PPD officers and sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear to escort the SeaWorld float. “Jones” was the only one out of 16 adult protesters who was released with no charges after they were arrested. In response to PETA’s records requests, the PPD initially claimed that “Jones” had never been arrested, despite photographic evidence to the contrary, and that there were no records relating to him, but subsequently they simply stated that the PPD would not hand over the records. PETA wishes to examine the arresting officer’s notebook, which should contain details of any arrest.
“SeaWorld continually covers up the suffering of orcas in its concrete tanks, and now we wonder if the Pasadena Police Department is covering up the extent to which it has been used by this particular SeaWorld spy,” says PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey Kerr. “The State of California guarantees the right of access to government records, and that includes the documents that will tell PETA how much time and taxpayer money the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Police Department have spent catering to SeaWorld’s interests.”
PETA’s lawsuit states that all of the protesters were handcuffed, taken to the police station, lined up, and ordered to remove their belts and shoelaces but that while the other protesters were booked, charged, and listed in the daily arrest log, “Jones” was separated from them at booking and released. Later, when asked what happened, “Jones” claimed that he had cried until the PPD agreed to release him.
Statement From PETA President Ingrid Newkirk
“SeaWorld is scrambling to distance itself from something that it cannot talk its way out of. It is already contradicting its earlier statement that it couldn’t comment on its security measures and that it was acting in the face of escalating animal-protection actions. It cannot escape the fact that the post office box used by McComb was in the name of SeaWorld’s head of security or that McComb appears to have been working with SeaWorld security when he informed the police of PETA’s protest at the Rose Parade and was later arrested and released. “Suspending” your own agents is an old trick, which usually comes with a backroom deal of compensation and a promise to bring them back when things die down, which is unlikely to be the case with this beleaguered business. McComb’s actions under an alias and possible illegal filming at the Superpod 3 orca-protection conference last year are also matters for investigation. Furthermore, we do not believe that SeaWorld has limited its espionage efforts to McComb’s activities. It has hired protesters to attend SeaWorld rallies, and PETA is currently looking at two more men who we believe were SeaWorld agents hired to infiltrate PETA as “volunteers,” and the list may grow. PETA is also preparing to release the names and photographs of other people it wishes to question with regard to their presence at demonstrations and volunteer activities. SeaWorld could face scrutiny by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other bodies now, but chances are that the McComb affair is just the tip of the iceberg in SeaWorld’s dirty tricks department. We are dealing with a SeaWorld infestation, and it is likely to get much uglier.”
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc, issued the following statement from CEO Joel Manby in response to recent news reports:
“The allegations made yesterday against a SeaWorld employee are very concerning. These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated. The SeaWorld Board of Directors and I have initiated an investigation into this matter which will be led by independent outside counsel, Ron Olson of Munger, Tolles & Olson, whose firm will have full access to our organization and people. In addition, we have placed the employee in question on paid administrative leave pending the findings of the investigation. We will take all appropriate actions based on the results of the investigation to ensure that the integrity and values of the SeaWorld organization are upheld.”