Six activists, including the organizer of a planned protest to denounce the state’s six-day black bear hunt, were arrested Saturday during the demonstration on the final day of the hunt at Wawayanda State Park.
The six were charged with disorderly persons offenses, state officials said. Saturday’s arrests bring to 10 the number of people arrested this week for protesting the weeklong hunt.
Among those arrested were Lynda Smith, 41, protest organizer and director of the West Milford-based Bear Education and Resource Group which sued unsuccessfully to stop the hunt; Dave Stewart, 67, of Vernon; and Bill Crain, 61, of New York City.
The six protesters, including three other women, were taken by state park police to the Vernon Police Department. Vernon Police did not release their names Saturday.
According to Karen Hershey, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, Smith had obtained a permit for Saturday’s protest for about 200 individuals.
“I understand they had a permit up at Wawayanda to protest, and had an area they were allowed to express their views from,”Martin McHugh, director of the state fish and fame division said Saturday in a final teleconference with the media on the hunt.
“Unfortunately, a few individuals were arrested for disorderly conduct,” he said. Those arrested ventured outside the designated area.
The arrests came three days after four anti-hunt activists were charged with interfering with the hunt on Wednesday.
The protest drew over 100 anti-hunt advocates.
State, Vernon and state park police closely monitored the demonstration, which was held in a parking lot about 150 yards from the weigh station.
Activists angrily shouted and waved signs that read “Kill the Hunt, Not the Bears”, “A Death Sentence for Eating Our Garbage?”, and “Killing for Recreation is Obscene” as they marched around inside a confined area of orange mesh fencing.
Against the hunt
Barbara Dyer, program coordinator for the Flanders-based branch of The Humane Society of the United States, said she believes the burgeoning bear problem in the state is a bunch of garbage, literally.
“People have to take responsibility for their garbage…. and we have a ‘Do Not Feed the Bears’ law that is not enforced,”Dyer said.
Paul Kronyak, 31, said he is a deer hunter who is against the state bear hunt.
“They’re having this hunt for all the wrong reasons, spitting out statistics of the number of (bear) encounters,” Kronyak said.
“If you’re going to go by pure statistics, there’s never been an unprovoked bear attack in New Jersey. They’re creating a dangerous situation with guys wounding bears (which) are 10 times more dangerous,” he said.
Before he was arrested, Stewart, a member of the Bear Education and Resource Group, said, “It’s a fallacy, no one really eats the (bear) meat. It’s a trophy hunt.”
Blaming the governor
Several protestors directed their anger at acting Gov. Richard J. Codey and DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell, neither of whom was at the site.
Jerry Mandel of Newton defiantly held a banner that stated “Campbell, Codey and the Hunters: May You Never Have Any Peace.”
“They’re absolutely heartless, disgraceful human beings,”Mandel said. “They could’ve stopped this hunt. It’s not a sport, it’s a barbaric activity.”
Protesters said they hoped to see the next administration stop future hunts.
“We’d like to see legislation that bans bear hunting and reconfigures the Fish and Game Council,” said Smith, before she was arrested.
Glenn Carson of Medford said, “I know there’s a bear contraceptives program they could try. I know (governor-elect Jon) Corzine wants to see alternatives to the hunt.”
Carson’s wife Debbie added, “(Corzine) does not support this hunt. It’s the only reason I voted for him.”
Crain, who said he was the president of the Easthampton (N.Y.) Group for Wildlife, was the first activist arrested, apparently for stepping outside the designated protest area.
Wearing a sign that said “Mother Nature is Crying,” he said , “We are putting our conveniences over the bears,” as he was led away in handcuffs.
The other five, led by Smith, were arrested near the end of the two-hour protest when they sat outside the designated area, silently holding up signs and refusing to budge.
State park police ordered the other protesters to leave the area immediately following the arrests since Smith, the permit holder, had vacated the premises. Gannett News