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Six from PETA protest fur prize for Miss Maryland

Peaceful gathering held outside Maryland Theatre during reception for pageant winner

December 04, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protester Virginia Fort of Norfolk, Va., speaks out Sunday outside The Maryland Theatre against the fur coat awarded to Carlie Colella when she was named Miss Maryland. Inside, a private send-off reception for Colella was going on.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Six people showed up to support People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ peaceful protest before a Miss Maryland event at The Maryland Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

PETA sent Miss Maryland Carlie Colella, of Hagerstown, a July 6 letter asking her to donate the fox fur coat she was awarded for winning the state pageant to PETA’s anti-fur campaign.

A $3,000 fox fur was donated by Maryland Fur Trappers Inc. as a prize for the winner.

PETA also emailed the pageant organization’s executive director to ask that the organization not give away fur prizes at future pageants.

Virginia Fort, a PETA campaigner, said Sunday that PETA had not received a response from Colella or the pageant organization regarding its requests.

The demonstration, which lasted about 90 minutes and ended soon after the scheduled start of the event, was peaceful.

Hagerstown Police had two officers in front of the theater to ensure calm. Police Chief Arthur Smith, who stopped by at the start of the protest, said if he had realized it was going to be such a small protest, he might not have assigned any officers for it.

A metal barricade separated the theater’s front courtyard from the sidewalk with a gap to allow people through to the event.

Benito Vattelana, the theater’s board president, said the event was a private reception for family and friends of Miss Maryland.

According to the Miss Maryland Scholarship Organization’s website, the event was a send-off reception, and was to include a preview of Colella’s wardrobe and entertainment by special guests. Tickets could be purchased for $10 with an RSVP by Nov. 27.

Vattelana was asked to relay a message to pageant leadership inside the theater, asking for comment on the PETA demonstration.

The Herald-Mail did not hear from pageant organizers on Sunday.

The six demonstrators held signs such as “Fur is worn by beautiful animals and ugly people” and “Animals are not ours to wear.”

One of the demonstrators wore a video player, which rarely had the audio turned on during the demonstration as PETA was trying to be respectful of the city’s noise ordinance, Fort said.

The video showed graphic footage of rabbits being skinned in what Fort said was a fur farm in China. Due to the bright sun, someone would have to get extremely close to the video screen to watch the video.
Only one of the protesters was from Washington County.

“I don’t believe that animals should be worn. I believe there are alternatives that are available,” said Renee Burgan, of Hagerstown. “There’s too much torture that they endure today.”

Sylvia Mann, who said she is Colella’s grandmother, said she thought the demonstration was a crime.

“Too bad you don’t have something better to do on a Sunday,” Mann told the protesters as she walked by to get into the theater.

A couple of people commented on the leather boots worn by at least two of the protesters. Fort said her boots were faux leather and Diane Mueller, of Mount Airy, Md., said her boots were vinyl.

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