Kept “Let Dairy Die!” signs from grabbing more than a split second of TV time
LOS ANGELES––Michael Bloomberg and spokespersons for Direct Action Everywhere sounded much like each other on March 4, 2020, congratulating themselves for fiascos that respectively knocked Bloomberg out of the U.S. presidential race and made a national heroine of Jill Biden, 68, wife of former U.S. vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Spontaneously stealing the moment, Jill Biden blocked not just one but two Direct Action Everywhere demonstrators from displaying “Let Dairy Die!” signs on stage in front of the television cameras that were at that moment focused on her husband.
Mike Bloomberg was the big loser of the night
Bloomberg, a billionaire investment and media magnate, reportedly spent from $400 to $600 million on his brief campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Out of 1,991 delegates needed to gain the nomination to face off against incumbent President Donald Trump in the November 2020 general election, Bloomberg won only the four nominating convention delegates from American Samoa.
Bloomberg consoled himself––though the March 3, 2020 “Super Tuesday” primary election results from 14 states did not show it––that he might have improved Joe Biden’s chances by taking votes, publicity, and momentum away from Bernie Sanders, the senior U.S. Senator from Vermont, who before “Super Tuesday” had a slight edge in committed delegates over Joe Biden.
But Direct Action Everywhere didn’t accomplish much more
Direct Action Everywhere representatives repeatedly pointed toward a New York Times article which, according to them, “literally explained the whole movement and message,” even though it happened to be the tenth New York Times article to describe and discuss veganism in just the preceding seven days. The New York Times has altogether published more than 14,500 articles discussing veganism, according to electronic searches of the New York Times online archives.
What exactly did Direct Action Everywhere do at the Biden campaign headquarters in Los Angeles?
The big moment, lasting only seconds, came as Joe Biden acknowledged losing to Sanders in California, Colorado, and Vermont, but thanked supporters for nine primary election victories in other states that made him the front runner for the Democratic nomination, now with an apparently commanding lead over Sanders.
Rushed the stage
“One protester rushed the stage, brandishing a placard with an image of a cow, and yelling, ‘Let dairy die!’” reported Jenny G. Zhang for the Washington Post.
“Almost immediately after a security guard pulled the protester off the stage, another chanting protester rushed the podium, but was blocked by Jill Biden, who grabbed the protester by the wrists.”
Other campaign staff members led by senior campaign advisor Symone Sanders, no relation to Bernie Sanders, then hurried that protester offstage.
In order of cameo appearance, the protesters were identified as Sarah Segal, 48, and Ashley Froud, 21.
“Let Dairy Die!” mentioned in 13% of online coverage
“Hours later,” picked up Los Angeles Times staff writer Christi Carras, “a dramatic photo of the encounter — with the former second lady clenching her teeth as she gripped Froud by the wrists to prevent her from getting near her husband — went viral on social media.
“Froud became aware of her overnight viral fame,” continued Carras, “when people began tagging her on Facebook and Twitter. Though she received some ‘negative feedback’ from skeptics who disapproved of her actions, she ultimately took comfort and pride in the fact that #LetDairyDie (referring to the industry) and #LungingVegans started trending.”
Well, sort of. ANIMALS 24-7 ran a series of electronic media searches which found that among the first 139,000 reports about Jill Biden blocking the protesters, the slogan “Let Dairy Die!” was mentioned in just 13%.
Said Froud, “I’m a bit disheartened that people are focusing on her and her defending her man rather than on the message that I’m trying to send.”
“Dairy” and “vegan” mentioned, but out of intended context
The word “dairy” appeared in 81% of the coverage, and the word “vegan” in 29%, but almost always not in contexts that made clear that the message Froud and Segal supposedly made to send was objection to federal policies that support the dairy industry.
And just what did Maria Cramer of The New York Times report that supposedly made Froud and Segal’s actions all worthwhile?
The first mention of dairy industry cruelty was six paragraphs from the top. Altogether, issues involving dairy got just seven sentences, three of them a last-paragraph quote from actor Joaquin Phoenix at his January 2020 Academy Award acceptance speech.
The net contribution of the Direct Action Everywhere action to the New York Times coverage of the actual issues involving dairy was less than 17% of the article, and none of the first quarter of it.
Bernie Sanders campaign also targeted
Direct Action Everywhere spokesperson Matt Johnson told Cramer that the Biden appearance “was the sixth political campaign event in three weeks the group disrupted,” Cramer wrote. “The activists have focused on Sanders, Biden and [Elizabeth] Warren because of their past support for the dairy industry, he said.”
Sanders, for one, might never have had a national political career if he had not supported the dairy industry. The Vermont dairy industry has declined from 1,015 working farms in the state as recently as 2010 to just 750 as of March 2018, but dairy farming is still the third biggest business in the state, and was the biggest when Sanders was first elected to public office.
Direct Action Everywhere, founded in 2013, hit Sanders with a protest in May 2016 at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, during Sanders’ unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hilary Clinton, the former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State.
Topless in Nevada
Sanders was targeted again on February 16, 2020 in Carson City, Nevada.
Described Ellen Cranley for Business Insider, “The Democratic presidential hopeful was taking the microphone from his wife Jane, whom he called ‘the next first lady,’ but then protesters took the stage.”
Said protest leader Priya Sawhney, grabbing the microphone, “Bernie, I’m your biggest supporter, and I’m here to ask you to stop pumping up the dairy industry and to stop pumping up animal agriculture. I believe in you…” Sawheny added, but then the microphone was disconnected and security personnel hustled her away.
Three women who paraded topless onstage behind Sawheny “were arrested and charged with indecent exposure,” Cranley added.
Sanders fled topless women
A Direct Action Everywhere media release, Cranley summarized, “cited their disagreement with Sanders’ ‘decades-long legislative history of protecting the dairy industry,’ including writing a 2009 amendment providing dairy with $350 million in aid and approving the [subsidy-laden] 2018 Farm Bill.”
Elaborated HotAir writer John Sexton, “The three other women crashed the stage with the words ‘Let dairy die’ written on their chests, before pouring milk cartons full of fake blood on themselves,” a gesture that some other media described as pouring strawberry flavored milk on themselves.
“Sanders left the stage and then made a couple of attempts to return but quickly turned around as one of the topless women approached him,” Sexton continued.
Eight felony charges
“Sawhney,” Sexton explained, “a Berkeley resident, is one of the four elected leaders of the San Francisco Bay chapter of Direct Action Everywhere. “Members contend that the killing of animals is so dire that drastic action is needed to stop it.
“Sawhney has been arrested three times and faces eight felony charges,” Sexton recited, “seven of which stem from protests against poultry and egg farmers in Petaluma in September 2018. She and other Direct Action Everywhere members chained themselves together outside Petaluma Poultry, an organic poultry production center in Sonoma County that supplies Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon. The Direct Action Everywhere activists ‘rescued’ or ‘stole’ nine birds, depending on who is doing the wording. Sawhney and 58 other activists spent 12 hours in jail. Sawhney has pleaded not guilty.”
Twice protested against Elizabeth Warren
Just a day before disrupting the March 3, 2020 Biden appearance in Los Angeles, Direct Action Everywhere reportedly disrupted an appearance by Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, also a presidential candidate, though distantly trailing in the race.
Direct Action Everywhere activist Kecia Doolittle had previously disrupted a May 2019 Warren appearance in Mason City, Iowa, “for her backing of the Dairy PRIDE Act, which would prohibit companies from using the word ‘milk’ on products using plant-based alternatives such as soy or almond,” explained Kim Norvell of the Des Moines Register.
“Doolittle called the senator a hypocrite for supporting the bill and claimed she was ‘selling out to big dairy,’” Norvell continued. “About a minute later, her sign was removed from her hands by campaign staff and she left. A man began yelling the same things from the crowd just seconds later. He was removed more than two minutes later.”