French animal rights activists staged a spectacular stunt Saturday night in Maubourget, southern France, by jumping into a bullfighting ring at the start of the event, creating chaos and causing the temporary evacuation of the arena.
The activists were brutalized by police. Four activists had to be evacuated by ambulance to a nearby hospital in Tarbes. All four were hospitalized and two were in “serious condition.” One activist suffered a fractured pelvis, a fractured tibia and fractured elbow. Another activist suffered a serious, open trauma to the head. A witness described how the young activist was severely beaten in the head by a bullfighting fan with a metal bar as fans watched and cheered. He said that a police officer returned the eyeglasses to the young man, who, dazed and bleeding profusely, walked off and fainted.
SWAT police had been alerted earlier by authorities that the anti-bullfight group CRAC Europe, was planning a protest. A large police force was already in place at the entrance to the arena, stopping and searching ticket holders to weed out fans from activists. Despite the searches, over 150 activists disguised as aficionados (bullfight fans) managed to buy tickets and get inside the arena.
The action citoyenne , or citizen’s action, was “intended to delay or stop the bullfight, where six bulls were to be stabbed to death,” said Roger Lahana, vice president of CRAC. “They were to jump in and disperse, making it more difficult for the police to catch them.” Police swarmed into the center of the ring, using tear gas and batons to remove the activists from the ring. “The air was so thick with tear gas,” recounted one activist on Facebook, “that the arena was fully evacuated.”
The president of CRAC, Jean-Pierre Garriques, was arrested and held in police custody overnight.
A female activist who did not want to be identified said that “the fans were beating us and the police were beating us. One cop dragged me by a leg while the other dragged me by my scarf, lifting me and strangling me. We were spit at and we women were called ‘whores’ by the aficionados.”
Extricated from the ring, the 150 activists then attempted to encircle it where they were again attacked by police and by inebriated and violent bullfighting fans.
“We were subjected to a never before seen level of violence not only from aficionados but from police. Four of us taken to the ER, others suffered brutal beatings and some could have been murdered by hate-filled aficionados. Activists were brutalized by police while they were already on the ground. Several aficionados attempted to throw activists over the side of the ring and luckily, were not able to.” ~Roger Lahana, Vice President, CRAC Europe
Bullfighting is illegal in 90% of French territory and is punishable by two years in prison for animal cruelty. It is only allowed in restricted areas of southern France which grants certain towns a special judicial exemption.
CRAC has scheduled more anti-bullfight protests for the remainder of the season and is working on several pieces of legislation to remove the remaining exemptions in order to abolish the blood sport throughout France.
Police brutality and assault complaints are currently being filed.