KKK defends pigeon shoot; 2,000 protest Labor Day bird massacre but 5,000 support it. Time for new tactics?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1992:
HEGINS, PENNSYLVANIA A pigeon hit point-blank by a shotgun blast looks
like a spreadeagled angel for just a split second, until the pellets tear her white breast and wings
to pieces and she flaps to the ground, awaiting the trapper boys who will wring her head off.
Wounded angels to some, doves of peace to others, and flying rats according to the
human participants, 5,000 to 7,000 pigeons are shotgunned each Labor Day at the Fred Coleman
Memorial Pigeon Shoot in Hegins, Pennsylvania. Held annually since 1934, the shoot was
reputedly dying of disinterest a half century later; but no more. Two thousand protesters turned
out this year, nearly double last year’s then-record number. Lured by the chance to heckle, be
on TV, and maybe see someone get killed dashing in front of the guns to save pigeons, the
crowd of shoot supporters doubled as well, to an estimated 5,000. Among them were several
motorcycle gangs and two robed and hooded Ku Klux Klan members from Ephrata, Penn., who
explained that they saw the event as a good chance to recruit.

The counts were well short of the 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrators and 20,000 shoot
supporters predicted, respectively, by the protest and shoot organizers, but were still impres-
sive in a community whose year-round population is only 1,200.
Eight years after the first protesters
staged a lonely vigil outside the killing fields,
the Hegins shoot has become what protest
organizer Steve Hindi terms “the line in the
sand” between cultures with little apparent
common ground. The issue isn’t pigeon-
shooting any more: it’s manhood.
Dominance. A matter of who’s going to back
down first and what army is going to make
him. Or her. Or them. Some shoot support-
ers argue that it’s a clash of urban versus rural,
that the protesters are out of touch with the
reality of their version of nature, to kill or be
killed. Others say it’s a matter of tradition, or
of maintaining their rights.
But the chants, signs, postures, and
costumes make plain that Hegins is, most of
all, a battle of the sexes. Outside the killing
field, a crowd composed of seven or eight
women to every man waves signs and banners
suggesting that the men inside are, at best,
substituting weapons for limp masculine
equipment, while Steve Hindi, Meyer
Taksel, and other camouflaged anti-pigeon
shoot “black berets” swagger about in parody
of the shoot supporters, few of whom appreci-
ate their burlesque. (Arriving before 6:00
a.m., the black berets routed early-coming
shooters by holding a raucous vegan breakfast
at the picnic tables set up just behind the firing
lines.) Inside, the sex ratio is almost the oppo-
site. The eventual trophy winners shoot from
the shoulder with methodical indifference
toward the crowd as well as the birds, but
younger shooters swivel their hips like Elvis
Presley, weapons held just above penis level,
looking back to make sure the women both
inside and out are watching their efforts to be
the loudest, crudest, most outrageous–to get
the most female attention, of whatever sort.
Outside, the predominant scent is
of newly mown grass, with here and there a
wisp of herbal rinse or perfume. Except for
sporadic chants, applause for those who rush
the field to rescue pigeons and are arrested,
and some shouting from the relatively few
protesters gathered near the killing field
entrance, the protest area is quiet. Most of the
protesters watch the killing in numb horror; if
they talk among themselves, they tend to turn
away first.
Inside, the mingled stenches of
blood, gunsmoke, charcoal, cooking flesh,
beer, and unbathed bodies rises like the musk
off a tomcat’s scent mound. A heavy metal
band strives in vain to jack the volume up
enough to be heard above the staccato explo-
sions; the result is sense-numbing cacaphony.
Inside, the talk is mostly of weapons
and killing exploits: hunting, war. Outside,
volunteer veterinarians and wildlife rehabilita-
tors try to save those pigeons who escape the
gunners but collapse in the parking lot. More
fortunate escapees circle into an overcast sky.
Inside, young men wearing poly-
ester camouflage pants and t-shirts reading
“Save a pigeon–shoot a protester!” chant
“Nah-nah-nah-nah, hey hey, goodbye!” each
time a pigeon flaps to the dirt. A 15-year-old
sporting his first wisp of a beard explains to
reporters that, “I live to kill and I kill to live,”
but he admits he’s never eaten a pigeon. A
younger lad cringes against his mother behind
the bleachers as she cheers on her husband, a
double-barreled division finalist. The 15-
year-old argues that developing a stomach for
killing is what really separates the men from
the boys.
Outside, Caryl McIntire and Donna
Milbourne of York, Maine, make a point of
picking up every scrap of litter from the
protest area. Inside, by mid-afternoon it’s
impossible to walk more than a few steps with-
out further flattening a discarded paper cup or
beer can.
The annual Hegins protests began
circa 1984, with a handful of people carrying
signs. Annual mass protests started in 1986.
After a few years, however, then-protest
organizers George Cave and Dana Stuchell of
Trans-Species Unlimited realized that the
increasingly vocal confrontations were attract-
ing more paying spectators to the shoot, not
less. They tried to shift the focus of protest to
the Pennsylvania state capitol, an hour down
the road in Harrisburg–but the legislature isn’t
in sesssion on Labor Day, there was no inher-
ent excitement in an unchallenged picket line,
and interest accordingly waned among both
activists and media until 1990. That’s when
Hindi, a newcomer to the cause, revived the
protest bigtime by challenging shoot organizer
Bob Tobash to a no-holds-barred bareknuckles
brawl for a winner-take-all purse of $10,000–
which Hindi posted. The prize fight was to
replace the pigeon shoot as a fundraiser for the
Hegins park and recreation association. While
Tobash declined to fight, the offer drew
newspaper and TV attention across the U.S. A
near-riot on Labor Day ’90 drew still more
attention, as shoot supporters roughed up a rel-
ative handful of demonstrators, most of whom
were members of Mobilization for Animals
Pennsylvania–products of the same culture as
the shooters, but with a markedly different
Having virtually ignored Hegins to
that point, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals suddenly made the protest a top prior-
ity. Not to be outdone, the Fund for Animals
began holding its annual convention in
Harrisburg on the weekend before the shoot,
making the protest the climactic event of what
became, in effect, a three-day rally.
Workshops taught the tactics of civil disobedi-
ence. Volunteer lawyers were organized to
represent arrestees. And activists responded.
In 1991, over 90 protesters dashed
into the killing fields, were arrested, and in
many cases did jail time rather than pay a fine
to defray the mounting cost of policing the
But after the 1990 protest, when
several Pennsylvania state troopers were
accused of brutality, the police became
markedly better organized. This year, a police
parking lot, double fencing, and mounted
police as well as a phalanx of officers on foot
kept the demonstrators at least fifty feet from
the closest access to the killing fields–unless
they paid their way into the spectator area, at
$5.00 apiece, where they risked injury from
shoot supporters if they even feigned a move
toward any pigeons. Repeatedly, PETA exec-
utive director Ingrid Newkirk tried to lead a
mass charge of the field; repeatedly diversion-
ary tactics failed, including a smoke bomb
lobbed into the back of a pickup truck. By the
time the PETA contingent surged over the first
of the two fences, virtually the whole security
force knew they were coming, and where they
would come from. No more than three or four
of approximately 20 people in the charge actu-
ally cleared the second fence to reach the
pigeons, who by then were surrounded by
trapper boys.
Pigeon rescue nixed?
Individual attempts to free pigeons
on the field were no more successful, discour-
aging repetition. Of a reported 114 arrests
made during the shoot this year, barely 80
were of protesters. Most of the pigeons who
escaped through protesters’ actions were
released by means other than dramatic civil
disobedience: two unidentified children
sneaked into a staging area and freed nearly
40, according to the nearest witnesses. About
a dozen protesters registered as shooters, then
deliberately missed, letting the birds fly off.
Sue Johnson of Kittery, Maine, was intercept-
ed on the firing line when shoot officials
noticed her unfamiliarity with her weapon.
They released the 20 pigeons she was to
shoot anyway, after she argued that by paying
the $78 shooters’ registration fee, she had
bought and paid for their lives. Elizabeth
Colville of Long Island saved another 20
pigeons by purchasing them for $2.00 each–
twice what the shoot organizers pay–from a
local breeder, a shoot supplier, as he brought
them into the parking lot. Following her suc-
cess, Eileen Cohen of PETA bought the last
160 pigeons on hand for $4.00 each; the price
was rising fast.
have to stop this shoot, but if all we’re going
to do by protesting is attract more people to
spend more money at the beer stand, we’d bet-
ter find another way.”
As ANIMAL PEOPLE learned by
circulating through the crowd, Robb spoke for
hundreds more people than she realized. And
even Hindi agreed. “We have to switch our
gears,” he mused afterward. “Some of the
PETA and Fund people are crying and moan-
ing about the way things turned out, and
they’re talking about either changing tactics or
not coming next year. But we don’t even see
not coming as an option. If we can’t stop
something as blatant as this pigeon shoot, we
can’t hope to win the bigger issues.”
Prescott denied that the Fund might
withdraw, but did acknowledge the possibility
of changing tactics. PETA held a follow-up
protest in Harrisburg on September 27, 10
days after the last protesters were released
from jail. In all, about 50 of the arrested
demonstrators elected to serve jail time rather
than pay fines for trespassing, disorderly con-
duct, and petty theft (releasing pigeons).
Most were sentenced to time served and
released on September 9. The cost of keeping
the protesters in jail was expected to bring the
total price of the pigeon shoot to Pennsylvania
taxpayers to nearly $200,000, including
$125,000 allocated for security on the day of
the shoot itself. The shoot was expected to
raise about $35,000 for the Hegins parks and
recreation fund.
Charges were also laid against over
two dozen shoot supporters, including
Raymond Grosser, 40, who allegedly
punched a state trooper, then claimed to be a
shoot protester. Grosser was charged with
aggravated assault. Most of the rest were
charged with disorderly conduct, mainly for
verbally abusing and threatening protesters. In
addition, two shoot supporters were belatedly
charged with assaulting shoot protesters at a
preliminary demonstration in Hegins last June.
Hindi said even more charges against shoot
supporters should have been made, but,
“Anyone in a black beret was totally ignored
whenever we complained of harassment.”
Hindi said he would once again call for an
internal investigation of how state police han-
dled matters.
Banned in Illinois!
Pigeon shoots similar to the one at Hegins would appear to be “prohibited
by section 4.01 of the Humane Care for Animals Act, Illinois senior assistant
attorney general Michael Luke advised Will County prosecutor Edward Burmila on
September 16. The opinion enables Burmila to begin proceedings against the
shoot held each Palm Sunday at the Carpy’s Cove gun club near Joliet. Burmila
sought Luke’s advice after viewing videotape of this year’s Palm Sunday shoot pro
vided by Steve Hindi, who was jailed for his role in leading a protest organized by
the Fox Valley Animal Defenders. Hindi said he would present Luke’s opinion to
the prosecutors in other Illinois counties where shoots take place.
Captive bird shoots
nothing new for KKK
While the Ku Klux Klan is a new
player in the annual Hegins drama, captive
bird shoots, fox hunts, and raccoon hunting
with dogs have all long been part of Klan tra-
dition–between lynching black people, Jews,
Catholics, and civil rights workers. As recent-
ly as November 3, 1989, the Klan held a
turkey shoot to mark the 10th anniversary of
the Klan-led massacre of five members of the
Communist Workers Party during a march at a
housing project in Greensboro, South Carolina.
Judith Allen; Melissa Andrews; Noelle
Julie Autges; Christine Bartlett; Lorri
Bauston; Lucia Beeler; Susan Brebner;
Carol Breinig; Linda Buyukmihci-Bey;
Ralph Caputo; Patti Cockey; Kathy
Cornett; Marla Creech; Bernard Frank
Cullen; Bonnie Davis; Jeanne DeGraaf;
Jenifer Dodson; Peter Douglass; Nancy
Draper; Mike Durschmidse; Christina
Fortunato; Eloise Gattuso; Teresa Gibbs;
Marjorie Gill; Michelle Grant; Mindy
Gregg; Heather Hammond; Sandra
Hickox; Christine Jackson; Sheryl L.
Jacobs; Lake Jagger; Tanya Jisa; Jean
Jones-Toutant; Joyce Karst; Pamela
Krausz; Cat Kubic; Lisa Lange; Sandra
Larson; Oda Lomax; Madelon MacKenzie;
Marjorie Mardis; Joan McCafferty; Tara
McDermott; Maria McKillan; Angi Metler;
David Michaelis; Ingrid Newkirk; Alex
Pacheco; Michael Pfalzer; Heidi Prescott;
Kyle Quandel; Janette Reever; Tracy
Reiman; Royse Reyhnolds; Linda
Richardson; Lisa Robinson Bailey; Denise
Rosen; Kenneth Ross; Bradford Rothrock;
Jessica Sandler; Michelle Sass; Carola
Seiler; Seth Sharack; Matilda Shields;
Robert Sholis; Carlan Smoler; Doll
Stanley; Rebecca Taksel; Trish
Tereskiewicz; Scott Van Valkenburg;
Marilynn Walcott; Robin Walker; William
Walsh; Freeman Wicklund; Jane Winsted;
Peter Wood; Laura Yanne; Jennifer Zadig.
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