Facing charges, protesters claim they didn’t
DEHRADUN, KANSAS CITY––Populist protest leaders in Dehradun, India and Kansas City, Missouri are facing charges and on the defensive in the court of public opinion for alleged assaults on police horses during political rallies.
The big white equine alleged victims look enough alike to have been a matched team. Yet the locations, in the foothills of the Himalayas and on the Great Plains, could scarcely be more different.
14-year-old horse lost leg
Shaktimaan, the 14-year-old Dehradun horse, lost his left rear leg as result of the March 14, 2016 incident, and may not survive complications of the injury.
Public sympathy for Shaktimaan and outrage over video showing Uttarahand legislative assembly member Ganesh Joshi apparently beating the horse with a cane may cost the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party an opportunity to topple the Congress Party government of Uttarakhand state in a vote of confidence set for March 28, 2016.
KC horse not visibly injured
Dan, the Kansas City horse, was not visibly injured. That incident, however, occurring two days earlier, may break the momentum of the Progressive Youth Organization.
A left-leaning quasi-Communist faction, the Progressive Youth Organization has emphasized transgender issues and had only recently emerged from obscurity by leading demonstrations against Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Alleged perps claim to be animal lovers
Both career BJP politician Ganesh Joshi, 58, and Progressive Youth Organization activist April Foster, 29, a transgender person who also uses the name Abril Forester, rapidly discovered that the times have changed since the first kings in recorded history rose to leadership through iconic defenses of their people from rampaging animals.
Both Joshi and Foster in initial statements argued that they were protecting fellow demonstrators from aggressive police horsemanship, but soon added protestations of their concern for animals.
“I never touched the horse.”
Said Joshi to Aman Sharma of the Economic Times, “I never touched the horse. I hit the road with a baton to push the horse back, as another horse ran over our activist who is now in ICU [intensive care unit]. I am an animal lover. I have a street dog at home. I went to see Shaktimaan [after the incident] but police did not allow me. I want to foot the treatment cost. I want to adopt the horse.”
Joshi also alleged to Sharma that the Dehradun mounted police had charged and flogged the BJP demonstrators in a manner “reminiscent of the British action against independence fighters.”
Video of protests several years ago showed a police officer on a white horse apparently chasing and flogging demonstrators, flanked by other mounted officers.
But three videos and a variety of other images of the March 14, 2016 incident inspected by ANIMALS 24-7 showed no cavalry charge and no fallen activist, let alone anyone at risk of being trampled by Shaktiman.
Neither did media reports identify any activist who was injured by a horse during the March 14, 2016 demonstration.
Another man punched horse
The first video posted by Indian media showed Joshi, in the immediate foreground, swinging a cane toward Shaktimaan twice with two hands and once with one hand, as a police officer on foot tried to intervene and a man in a grey vest urged Shaktimaan back. If the cane blows struck Shaktimaan, they struck his front legs, not the hind leg that was fractured.
Also shown in the first video was a man in a blue jacket darting through the melee to punch Shaktmaan, throwing a right jab in a manner that suggested the man had martial arts training. This man then disappeared into the crowd.
The second video, posted by Joshi himself at his web site, showed the scene from behind, a diagonally opposite angle. Almost nothing could be seen of Joshi or the cane. Another man was clearly shown pulling an object, apparently a riding crop, from the mounted police officer’s pocket. Shaktimaan is shown falling, but why is unclear.
The third video shows the scene from almost the same angle, but farther back, offering more of a panorama. It establishes that Shaktimaan was not hit by a police vehicle, as some defenders of Joshi alleged.
The third video also confirms that the members of the Dehradun mounted unit were scattered throughout the crowd. Only one other rider was close enough to have helped to protect Shaktimaan, even had the rider of the second horse seen soon enough what was happening––and since Shaktimaan and his rider were under attack from both left and right, the second rider could not have protected them from all of the violence.
Jailed facing charges on March 18, 2016, including stopping government officials from performing their duties, Joshi was initially denied bail, but on March 22, 2016 was freed on bail equivalent to about $1,200 U.S.
Government in jeopardy
Observed the Press Trust of India, “Joshi’s release on bail paves the way for him to vote in the state Assembly on March 28, when [the Congress Party government led by] Harish Rawat has been asked by the Governor to go for a floor test.”
Maneka Gandhi, however, who founded the Indian animal rights organization People for Animals in 1988 and is a multi-time cabinet member in BJP-led federal governments, set partisan considerations aside.
“We strongly condemn such inhumane and irresponsible act which could easily have also caused loss of life,” Mrs. Gandhi said in a prepared statement on March 18, 2016, two days after e-mailing similar comments directly to ANIMALS 24-7. “We also demand that a person who is capable of such unprovoked and vicious violence must be immediately expelled from BJP. His actions have caused disrepute to his party and will continue to show BJP and Uttarakhand State in a bad light.”
“Low-level political goon”
Observed senior Animal Welfare Board of India member and longtime Blue Cross of India chief executive Chinny Krishna, “What Joshi [allegedly] did to the horse is what many members of legislative assemblies and members of Parliament do to cops, toll booth operators, and their employees every day. Joshi only typifies the low level political goon that is so common today. He deserves to be thrown out of the BJP party. The Animal Welfare Board of India member from Uttarakhand, Jai Raj, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, has written to the Chief Secretary of the State to take strict action against him. The Board has written separately.”
The available video of the Kansas City incident, like the videos from Dehradun, showed police horses scattered among a crowd of hundreds.
The mounted officer riding the allegedly assaulted horse, Dan, and a second officer riding a brown horse moved gradually from the back of the scene to the front. They encountered Foster, who had been holding a large red banner, about halfway through. Foster turned to face the horse, then extended an arm toward the horse.
Freeze-frames from the video suggest an attempt to grab Dan by the bridle. After a few moments of jostling, unclearly shown in the video, Foster appeared to extend an arm toward Dan a second time, then turn away and leave the scene, fleeing toward the camera.
Wrote Maria Rose Williams for the Kansas City Star, “According to a police report, the woman [Foster] had first screamed in the horse’s face to scare him. When that did not work, the report said, the woman hit the horse with her open hand. After slapping the officer’s horse, the woman ran into the gathering of protesters — an estimated 200 people — and because of the size of the crowd, police said, they were unable to find her.
Police said Foster was identified by a caller to the Tips hotline, and the officer recognized the woman who hit his horse from a photograph.”
Arrested for allegedly slapping Dan the horse on March 18, 2016, Foster is to appear in court on a charge of abuse of a police service animal on May 4, 2016.
Claimed the Progressive Youth Organization on Facebook of the video, taking what ANIMALS 24-7 must describe as interpretive liberty, “An officer mounted on a large horse can be seen thrusting his hips forward repeatedly, and making a charge at two protestors at the beginning of the video…There are two shorter protestors between April and the horse. These protestors are being rammed by the horse in the video, and the only thing that keeps them from falling over and being trampled is April’s hand touching the animal, and the fact that the protestors had their arms linked.”
The horse in truth appears to advance at a pace no faster than a normal walk.
“I am a redneck”
Added Foster in a later statement also made to the Kansas City council, “I hurt no animals that night. I’ve lived in Kansas City for a number of years now, but I am a redneck from the sticks of Idaho. Growing up, I raised horses, chickens, pigs, cows, ponies, ducks, you name it. I kept their water thawed and refortified their shelters during winter storms. I’ve cried from the natural death of a hen I raised from a chick, and I’ve cried from the natural passing of a horse I grew up with and loved…If you watch the videos,” Foster alleged, again with interpretive liberty, “you’ll notice the police laying into these poor animals with their police boots, kicking and squeezing the horses’ rib cages, and charging them directly into the crowd. You can hear the screams and cries from the people near the horses.”
PYO vs. PETA
The Progressive Youth Organization also look liberties in describing how People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals responded to the incident.
Said PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch, “All animals feel pain, stress and fear just like we do, and they deserve our respect and protection. Horses are highly sensitive prey animals, and this poor horse was without a doubt already under a tremendous amount of stress as a result of the chaos, the crowds, the deafening noise of the angry protesters, and more. PETA commends the person who called the tip line so that this woman’s apparent cruelty to this horse does not go unpunished.”
PETA has always opposed horse use
PETA has opposed the use of horses for police work, especially crowd control, since inception in 1981.
Alleged the Progressive Youth Organization, “Nowhere did PETA’s statement include an indictment of the use of horses by police to trample and push protesters. Nowhere in PETA’s statement did it condemn the police for using large quantities of pepper spray right next to the bodies and faces of the horses. All of which are more physically damaging to a horse than someone touching it. That’s real animal cruelty.
“But those of us who have been following PETA, especially in the past six months, should not be shocked at their alignment with reactionary forces,” the Progressive Youth Organization fumed on.
“After all, it was merely late last year when PETA members were driving out to an illegally occupied federal building to bring ‘vegan snacks’ to a far-right militia. That militia was led by Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy,” a Nevada rancher “who stole hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars over two decades by not paying his cattle grazing fees.”
The Progressive Youth Organization referred to the six-week occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon in January and February 2016.
“Get out of the beef business”
On January 7, 2016, after the occupiers appealed for supporters to bring them snacks, PETA won national publicity for vegan products by delivering to them samples of vegan jerky made from soy, seita, and shiitake mushrooms.
Reported the Cox Media Group, “PETA members also took time to protest, holding up a sign that read, ‘The end of animal-based Ag is Nigh: Get Out Now!’ PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said on the organization’s blog: ‘These ranchers may have a beef with the feds, but their water use and the cattle’s production of methane mean that the world needs them to get out of the beef business.’”