To find out whether SeaWorld colluded with the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) to silence animal advocates, PETA filed a lawsuit this morning against the city of Pasadena and PPD Chief Phillip L. Sanchez. The suit challenges the city’s refusal to comply with PETA’s Public Records Act requests for records relating to “Thomas Jones,” the Sea World “protester” who attempted to incite violent acts and was this week exposed as SeaWorld employee Paul T. McComb.
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. Below is a video of “Jones” participating in the protest and getting arrested.
The PPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) appeared to have been given an exaggerated account of PETA’s plan, 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. PETA’s lawsuit states that while all the protesters were charged and listed in the daily arrest log, “Jones” was separated from them at booking and released.
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. Subsequently, however, they stated that the PPD would not hand over the records. PETA wants 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 SeaWorld’s spy,” says PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange. “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.”
In response to SeaWorld putting McComb on paid leave, PETA had this to say:
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.