For 37 years, the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) has come to Denver, drawing thousands of hunting, fishing, and outdoor enthusiasts to Colorado’s largest sporting expo. Never in the event’s history has it been the target of protest, until a week ago when a group of activists interrupted at least one of the expo’s hunting seminars. The protest appears to have been organized on Facebook by a group called Direct Action Everywhere, which describes itself as an “animal liberation” organization founded in 2013.
“Activists as young as 12 came from as far away as Fort Collins and Colorado Springs to speak with one voice at the International ‘Sportsmen’s’ (Murder Hobbyists’) Expo at the Colorado Convention Center,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “Thousands of people attended, including many young children and bought killing equipment and animal remains. They could improve their killing skills at any one of six simultaneously held seminar tracks. We disrupted an ‘early season’ deer killing lesson.”
Attendees of the expo describe it differently. What the protesters actually interrupted was a seminar on elk hunting and conservation given by Chris Roe, a certified wildlife biologist and owner of Roe Outfitters LLC. Audience members recalled the protesters storming the stage and chanting loudly. At one point, some of the protesters demanded to know why the speaker hunted elk and not his own dogs.
“Why don’t you see that elk are feeling, intelligent creatures just like your dog?” shouted one of activists.
The remainder continued to chant until a small scuffle broke out and they were led away by expo staff. You can see a video of the disruption below:
DxE International Murder Expo Disruption, DenverActivists as young as 12 came from as far away as Fort Collins and Colorado Springs to speak with one voice at the International “Sportsmen’s” (Murder Hobbyists’) Expo at the Colorado Convention Center. Thousands of people attended, including many young children and bought killing equipment and animal remains. They could improve their killing skills at any one of six simultaneously held seminar tracks. We disrupted an “early season” deer killing lesson. TRANSCRIPT: Presenter (on stage): All right. First things first. What we are talking about here, and I’m going to go right into a couple of assumptions – we are talking about – Aidan (activist off camera): Why elk? Why do you kill elk? Presenter: Because we enjoy hunting, we want to put meat in the freezer, and – Aidan: Why are you willing to kill elk but not your dog? Presenter: All right. We’ll tackle that here in a minute. Aidan (on camera): Why don’t you see that elk are feeling, intelligent creatures just like your dog? [staff person in camo vest takes Aidan’s bag away and grabs him by his sleeve] Presenter (stammering): Then – I think you need to stick around for my seminar. Aidan (now standing in front of center stage): It’s not sport! Other activists: It’s violence! Presenter (laughing incredulously): This is awesome! [audience boos, camo vested man grabs Aidan roughly again and drags him off to the side] Activists (coming in front of center stage, with signs): It’s not sport, it’s violence! It’s not sport, it’s violence! Animals feel, just like us! Animals love, just like us! Animals love their babies, just like us! Animals feel pain, just like us! Animals feel fear, just like us! It’s not sport, it’s violence! It’s not sport, it’s violence! Their bodies, not ours! [some audience members flap their hands at the protesters, clap sarcastically, make hand gestures] [presenter and camo vested man confer briefly on stage] Presenter (wryly, not sure what to do): Where’s your radio show when you need it? This would get awesome ratings. [Activists continue chanting for about a minute, “It’s not sport, it’s violence! Their bodies, not ours!”] [camo vested man snatches signs out of activists’ hands, some of the activists manage to keep their signs out of reach] [at about 2:13, camo vested man snatches Marilyn’s bag, pulls her hair, and shoves her] [some of the audience members leave, others erupt into a dull roar] Audience members: Get them out, get them out! Protest outside, protest outside! [audience members and expo staff drag the activists away]
Posted by Direct Action Everywhere – Denver on Sunday, January 17, 2016
Bowhunting World editor Jace Bauserman, who had just finished his presentation before the protest, said the entire crowd was on edge.
“I was furious,” he wrote on Grand View Outdoors. “I had brought my wife and three kids to watch me speak, and it’s difficult to explain to children the level of hatred one person can have for a complete stranger. My eight-year-old daughter looked at a woman holding a sign that read ‘I Love Hunting Accidents,’ then peered up at me through worried eyes and asked, ‘Daddy, does that lady want you to die?'”
The protesters eventually left the seminar and moved to another section of the expo. According to the organizers, the disruption was a hiccup in an otherwise successful conference.
“First time we’ve had such an event,” the ISE wrote on its own Facebook.
“If you were there, we’d also like to hear your thoughts about the incident,” the organization added. “Ignorance most likely will never go away. This why we must get our facts right.”
What do you think?