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CHARC appeals Wauconda Rodeo violence to the court of public opinion

Animal People
July/August 1997

WAUCONDA, Illinois––Demonstrating more faith in the court of public opinion than in the justice system of Lake County, Illinois, the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition is challenging the Wauconda Rodeo and all rodeos this summer with a 40-minute video, Bucking The Rodeo, by Robyn Douglas of Earth Network News.

Whatever an authoritarian-leaning viewer might say about the allegations the video raises of police brutality against anti-rodeo protesters, the arrogance of police who incorrectly claim it’s illegal to videotape them, and the perjury of police whose courtroom testimony the cameras belie, the violence toward animals is self-evident.

Over the past four years CHARC hidden cameras, long-range video, and night viewing equipment have captured at Wauconda not only open mayhem according to Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rules, but also countless incidents of behind-the-scenes kicking, punching, tail-yanking, and tight cinching, along with a dramatic against-the-rules jerkdown that breaks a calf’s neck, after which another calf is paraded out to reassure the crowd. , with little if any evident veterinary care.The cameras produce close-ups, as well, of festering wounds on horses and steers who are used and abused over and over, show after show.

Newly hired CHARC executive director Doug Hanbicki will send Bucking The Rodeo for $20 (POB 66, Yorkville, IL 60560). Excerpts will likely be used for years to show what’s wrong with rodeo.

CHARC president Steve Hindi, meanwhile, obtained the IRS Form 990 filings of the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce, the rodeo host, along with the filings of other charities that purportedly benefit, ––and discovered that while the rodeo is by far the most lucrative Chamber project, just 3% of the revenue actually goes to charitable work. Attendance, meanwhile, has fallen 30% since the CHARC protests began. Hindi offered $1,000 to one beneficiary, the Wauconda Food Pantry, on condition that two CHARC videographers, now barred, could attend this year’s rodeo. When that was refused, Hindi offered $10,000 a year to the charitable beneficiaries in each of the next five years, if the rodeo isn’t held and the Chamber of Commerce works with him to develop new fundraisers. That too was rejected.

Anti-rodeo protesters Terri Campbell, Chris Grushas, and Susan Piszczek, allegedly knocked down without provocation by Sheriff’s Deputy John Van Dien at the 1996 Wauconda Rodeo, still haven’t been able to bring charges against Van Dien, because State’s Attorney Waller won’t file them, but Grushas did get a day in court, charged last summer with resisting arrest but acquitted in May. Hindi and CHARC director Greg Campbell expect to bring them all into court as witnesses, however, having been sued by Van Dien on May 14 for allegedly defaming him with a leaflet captioned, When Will Lake County Investigate Brutal Sheriff’s Deputy?

The video evidence has been seen by retired Criminal Court of Cook County Circuit Judge Christy S. Berkos, an 18-year veteran of the bench.

“I viewed a film of an incident which occurred near, but not on, property where the Wauconda Rodeo was being performed,” Berkos stated. “Police officers, obviously poorly trained, arrested a young man carrying a camera and a two-way radio. The officers physically restrained the man while attemping to take his radio. No crime had been committed by this man. One officer grabbed the man and then the officer performed an obviously fake fall to the ground, apparently attempting to make it appear that he was being attacked. Thereafter, others in the area (two young females), who attempted to retrieve the man’s radio, were grabbed, dragged, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, physically abused and arrested without cause or reason. This is a true example of law enforcement officers totally out of control,” Berkos emphasized. “The only crime I viewed on the film was police brutality. Each of these officers should be reprimanded, and an investigation should be conducted regarding their behavior.”

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