The group’s disturbing story behind fan incidents at T-Wolves matches

Members of the Bay Area’s controversial animal rights group, Direct Action Everywhere, have disrupted three separate Minnesota Timberwolves games in the past two weeks, protesting the methods used to “kill” millions of chickens during a bird flu outbreak on Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor’s egg farm.

In response to the recent incident, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green tweeted“They need to start prosecuting these people.”

Such cheeky protests may be unusual in NBA matches, but they are standard practice for Direct Action Everywhere (also known as DxE), whose members promise to protest against all forms of agriculture and meat-eating, “until every animal is free.” Many of the protests include what the group calls “open rescues”: stealing animals directly from farms. The practice has had several members of the group – including a co-founder – arrested and charged with crimes.

DxE also encourages its members to push friends and family to veganism. A document released by the group, “Making the Liberation Pledge Work for You,” suggests asking family members, “Would you sit at a table where someone eats the body of an abused human baby?”

The group’s goals go far beyond one end of factory farms. A document from the group has a planned timeline that begins with “open rescues” spreading around the country in 2025 “as vegan culture spreads,” culminating in the adoption of an “Equal Species” in one or more more countries or states “by 2055. To work towards this goal of species similarity, the group says it seeks to establish” animal rights seed towns “where meat is restricted.

One of DxE’s co-founders, former corporate lawyer Wayne Hsiung, ran for mayor of Berkeley in 2020 in an attempt to establish the first such “seed town.” He actually reached the parliamentary election against the incumbent Jesse Arreguín. He lost, but managed to earn 14,000 votes. Hsiung, DxE’s longtime public figure, told SFGATE in an email that he stepped down from the DxE leadership in 2019 and that “recent NBA protests surprised me as much as many people on Twitter.”

Many activists who have interacted with Hsiung over the years have openly criticized Hsiung’s tactics and interpersonal style. During his mayoral campaign, a former employee, James Davis, wrote an opposition piece for Berkeleyside, accusing Hsiung of being a “self-aggrandizing” bully.

An activist links himself to the goal during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round between the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves at the FedExForum on April 16, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee.

An activist links himself to the goal during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round between the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves at the FedExForum on April 16, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Justin Ford / Getty Images

“Over the years, Wayne has burned and attacked the character of those who disagree with him, while promoting ‘yes-men’ who see him as the second coming,” Davis wrote. “If Wayne wins the race for mayor, I have no doubt he will pursue a similarly divisive agenda that ignores rather than unites the community for common purposes.”

Hsiung has faced significant legal consequences for stealing livestock, including the suspension of his California law license. Prior to the election, he was charged with “two crimes in connection with a ‘rescue’ of two goats in Transylvania County, North Carolina,” according to Berkeleyside.

He has also been charged with five crimes and one misdemeanor in connection with “Operation Deathstar,” in which DxE members allegedly walked into Utah’s Circle Four Farms in 2017 and left with two piglets; eight crimes and seven misdemeanors in connection with two operations in Petaluma in 2018; and “third-degree crimes of burglary and theft in connection with the removal of a turkey from the Norbest farm in Sanpete County, Utah.” (The case in Sanpete County was dismissed in November 2021). The California State Bar cited the charges of crimes that Hsiung pleaded not guilty to in North Carolina and Petaluma in their decision to suspend his law license.

A jury trial over “Operation Deathstar” for both Hsiung and Paul Darwin Picklesimer – another DxE member facing charges and running for Berkeley City Council in 2020 without success – is set for September 2022. None of they have yet filed pleas.

The activist group has often targeted Whole Foods, claiming that the chain supports animal cruelty. In 2016, members covered in fake blood cut a ribbon cut in a new Silicon Valley store; in 2018, their protests outside a Berkeley location were so disturbing that the judge gave Whole Foods a restraining order against the group.

DxE also spent four months in 2017 protesting outside a Berkeley butcher every Sunday, often covering themselves in fake blood and wrapping themselves in plastic, according to Eater. The store eventually agreed to display a sign that read “Attention: Animals’ lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unfair, no matter how it is done,” in return for an end to the protests.

“We certainly do not like to make people uncomfortable,” DxE organizer Matt Johnson told Eater after the sign was put up. “But if you want to talk about intimidation or the word bullying, which is sometimes used, yes, we are talking about a world where animals languish in captivity and suffer terrible fates.”

Despite – or perhaps because of – their aggressive tactics, DxE has a significant following around the country with 423,000 followers on Facebook and a further 64,000 on Instagram.

“Glue Girl” and the woman in the judge’s uniform protested at the Target Center in Minneapolis, while “Chain Girl” struck at FedExForum in Memphis. The series returns to Memphis for Game 5 Tuesday night.

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