Newark Agrees to Allow Free Speech as Circus Comes to Town

Just as the Ringling Brothers Circus rolled into Newark yesterday for a four-day run at the Prudential Center, the ACLU-NJ declared a victory for free speech in the settlement of a case involving an animal rights activist who was arrested in front of the Prudential Center last March for protesting the circus’s treatment of animals .

As part of the settlement, Newark has agreed to train police officers every six months regarding the city’s free-speech policies. “Most people don’t know how cruelly the animals are treated, and if people have the right to attend the circus, we should have the right to oppose it,” said Nicholas Botti, who was arrested while protesting the circus last year. “Looking back, it was futile to tell the police we weren’t breaking any laws, but if my experience means the police don’t infringe on the rights of other people for speaking their minds, then it is a victory for both civil rights and animal rights.”

The text of the settlement, which was signed and dated on Wednesday, can be found here. The city also agreed to reimburse Botti $1,600 in legal fees stemming from his arrest.

Ringling Brothers touts its Center for Elephant Conversation in central Florida as an important effort to protect the species.

Photo: Angela N. on Flickr.

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  1. As a little kid who didn’t know any better, I used to think the circus was cool. Now that I am older and hopefully, wiser, I don’t like to see animals “used” in this way, either. Wild animals, such as elephants and tigers, should be viewed in their natural habitats or on National Geographic shows or in photos. In these progressive times, I think Ringling Brothers should do away with the animal acts entirely and just concentrate on the human acts and gymnastics and magic demonstrations.

  2. If elephants were beaten and tortured with a hook I might go to the circus. Zoos are more than enough. I’m glad Newark police are being reminded every 6 months that people have rights to free speech. Perhaps that should be done nationwide.

  3. It’s animal slavery. Wild animals should not be held captive to perform tricks for humans. And anyone who wants to say that out loud in front of the venue where it’s happening has the right to do so. Cirque du Soleil is much more clever and inventive without using elephants and horses.

  4. ROC, The Daily Show didn’t INTEND for that horror. Therefore, they are absolved from any criticism because their INTENTION was pure. Who cares about the outcome!

  5. ROC, The Daily Show didn’t INTEND for that horror. Therefore, they are absolved from any criticism because their INTENTION was pure. Who cares about the outcome!

    Or maybe one mistake is a little different than continued and purposeful abuse. Such a hard thing to acquire, perspective.

  6. The picture with this article is why I hated the circus as a kid. The elephants always looked so sad it broke my heart.

  7. I wonder if animals get jealous when other animals can do better tricks than them.

    I think the bears riding the bicycles are the most talented. Man do I love those little fellas, now that’s talent.

  8. I think the Daily Show antic is awful and have spoken to the creative director and executive producer. (I’ve worked with them). They acknowledge it was a mistake. The regular content of the show itself does not include the abuse of animals and if it did, I’d feel the same. Cruelty to animals should not be a partisan issue. It’s just wrong.

  9. I’m fairly zure that conditions for animals in circuses have vastly improved over the last 20 years. And past experience alone should have shown us all that “animal rights activists” (the shrillest of whom generally hate zoos and even shows like “Nature,” it should be remembered, and don’t even like the word “pet”) often make wild, unsupportable claims. Surely some compromise can thus be reached which will allow for the delight in a child’s eyes when the likes of Gunter Gebel Williams performs with big cats. Merely that the activists screech so does not then make it zo.

    A “circus” without animal acts is even akin somewhat, I’d suggest, to a simple stroll through Times Square or Bleecker Street of a warmish Saturday night. Whatever ‘Cirque du Soleil” is, too, it hardly qualifies as a circus under conventional definitions. A kind of display of acrobatic contortionism-cum-modern-dance, yes, but not something that either Clyde Beatty or Barnum would have recognized as a circus. Yet even Cirque du Soleil has a much cheaper, reasomable facimile in go-go bars (one of the obvious antececents of its shows, of course).

  10. As Barnum himself said, Cathar, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Cirque du Soliel is inventive. Making big game animals perform stupid pet tricks under conditions that are inhumane shouldn’t qualify as entertainment.

  11. Sorry, Cathar, I don’t have kids but if I did I would be more interested in teaching them about wild animals in their natural habitats than living in some manmade, enclosed sturcture in the Bronx. Of course, not everyone can afford to visit Africa, India or South America but that is why we have books, big-screen TVs and CDs.

  12. The title of this article, “Newark Agrees to Allow Free Speech,” is misleading. The US Constitution guarantees Free Speech as a fundamental right and gives Newark no discretion or authority in the matter. A more accurate and appropriate title for this article would be “Newark Agrees Not To Violate Free Speech Rights.”

  13. Cirque du Soleil, jerseygurl, is only very “inventive” if one does not get out much. Even its wigglers writhing up and down poles, the clear inspiration there has been the “rope dancers” of a real circus. I can understand if you’ve never been to go=go joints like this area’s Lace and Stiletto and Satin Dolls, but never to a floor show in Vegas? There is little new under the sun, after all.

    Mrs. Martta, the hard part about teaching one’s offspring about animals in wild habitats is affording the getting to such habitats. Nor (and let us be fair here) should we really expect to see a “wild” animal experience at a Ringling show. But it is always fair value for the money, and it brings excitement to youthful eyes. T’is far better for the heart and soul than than a PETA rally, I think. (Even the amazingly touching “Is That All There Is?” would sound very different if it’d been written for Peggy Lee by Lieber & Stoller after a visit to Cirque du Soleil’s updated burlyque.)

    In one part of Nam where I served as an advisor to the 2nd ARVN Rangers, tigers (poor kitties probably already driven half-mad by all the warfare) were a bona fide menace and nuisance to area villagers. They even munched undiscriminatingly on folks from the local leper colony. Would you suggest the well-pocketed reserve their own exposure to wildlife for visits to such native habitats? Or would you settle for, say, Tiger Island at Busch Gardens? I realize that the prevailing cultural drift from posters here will be “Cirque du Soleil si, Ringling Brothers no,” but still….

  14. Shortly after returning home from an African safari I visited the Bronx zoo, a place that I frequented quite often as a child and had not been to in years. It is, as zoos go, a well run and fine wildlife park. But for the first time I wanted to set the animals free.

    The Big Apple Circus is primarily filled with performance people and dogs and horses, no elephants or big cats.

    As for comparing Cirque du Soleil to a Las Vegas floor show, well I’ve been to both. The Las Vegas Cirque shows (and there is more than one theme in different venues out there) are so far beyond the typical Vegas floor shows it’s like comparing a dull city pigeon to a brilliant peacock.

  15. Hi cathar,

    “I’m fairly zure that conditions for XXX in XXX have vastly improved over the last 20 years”

    let’s fill in the blanks:
    black in the Inner cities
    women in business
    women in bordellos
    minorities in ghettos
    roostewrs in cockfights
    pittbulls in dogfighhts
    people in shelters

    Good Morning…this isn’t VIETNAM

  16. The time for the traditional Circus we knew as kids in the 60s is over. Stop the insane treatment of the beautiful elephants. The circus should be about acrobatics and clowns etc.

    Iceman over and out

  17. DagT, even (especially) in Africa, life is very, very hard for your average big cat or wildebeest. Zoos and zoological parks probably represent the best chance many species have for survival. And I doubt very much that you actually went on a “safari.” More like a package tour, yes? One which included a night or two in a lodge with big windows rather than native gunbearers chanting in Swahili. The days of Jim Corbett are long gone, after all.

    So much of Cirque du Soleil in any of its incarnations is akin to soft core porn. (It’s also Canadian!)You’d really rather take a kid to something overpriced like that than the fairly priced circus?

    Belletones, your post above is just silly. Have you ever even been to a cockfight? Or a “bordello,” for that matter? Would you even know where to find one around here? And how would you know about life in the inner city? That you claimed to speak for so many groups was an appalling presumption on your dumb, dogmatic part.

    Iceman, you too of all people should can the pronouncements. Some things really aren’t “over” just because a few hapless cranks on Baristanet declare they are. Don’t try to join their ranks.

  18. What is wrong with these animal rights people is that they lie and they think its alright to lie and harass people. The HSUS was found guilty in court of paying people to lie about the circus. The circus won their case and HSUS is being sued under the RICCO act. People don’t support animal rights groups as they want to end all pet ownership, use of animals for food, and medical research. These people are zealots and don’t care if your child dies due to lack of medicine. These animal rights zealots are no different than any other cult that wants to force you to believe in their ideas. Biology does not care about any rights. These are the same people who kill dogs and cats by forcing them to eat vegan. This kills dogs within five years and cats right away. These people are VB12 deficient which makes them irrational and overly emotional. All cults want to control what you eat.

  19. what’s with all the nameless / faceless avatars on baristanet? IMHO people with strong opinions should be proud enough of them to use their real names and, as long as they can figure out the technology, use their real images as their avatar.

  20. Cathar the lodges were African luxurious but we could not walk about unattended. A gun carrying native accompanied us always. The tracker was from the tribe of Shaangang and he and the ranger often communicated in xitsonga. The Sabie and Zambzie rivers were impressive animal play lands. Vacationing and driving over the terrain in a land rover on a photo safari gave me a new found respect for wildlife.

    I’ve seen three different performances of Cirque in Vegas and one several years ago in Jersey City when they set their tents up near the Science Center. I don’t view it as soft porn at all.

    I’m not really opposed to circus animals, nor well kept zoos. But as I noted above The Big Apple circus is sans elephants and big cats and my grand kids didn’t miss seeing them.

    Recently one of my grand girl’s homework assignment was to write a persuasive essay regarding to cage or not to cage animals. Her youthful choice was “not to”.

  21. cathar,

    Since I grew up very poor in the inner city of Harlem, and am a female of mixed race and ethnicity, I presume to speak for all of those “silly” people.

    Of course I know where the local bordello is on Broughton Ave in Bloomfield.

    I do admit that I have never been to a dogfight- so you may have me bested there.

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