Two protest groups stood along Kings Mountain Road in Woodside at the entrance to the grounds of the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County on Wednesday. The occasion: the annual Fourth of July junior rodeo.
The events they were protesting – the pig scramble and the rodeo itself – went on without incident, according to one observer, but the presence of a second protest group was new.
(See video of a segment of the pig scramble, this page, at right.)
For the past three years, a group local to Woodside has been on the scene to hold signs and banners to indicate their opposition to the pig scramble, in which children chase pigs around a dusty arena in hopes of catching one and walking away with a ribbon.
The activity is harmful, protesters say, in that it terrifies the pigs and teaches the children that it's OK to frighten animals. The pigs tend to scream as they're being chased.
In response, Mounted Patrol members have said that the chase is fun, that children see it as fun and that the pigs, thus far, have not been physically injured, nor have they shown signs of psychological damage.
Over time, the instructions to the participating children and to the pig handlers have evolved to include admonitions to be gentle with the animals, a rodeo official said in a 2016 interview.
In the past, some Mounted Patrol members have explained their reluctance to consider ending the pig scramble by saying that it would give a foot in the door to people who protest rodeos as a category.
Jennifer Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the pig-scramble protesters, said the second group of people joining the Woodside group was there to oppose the rodeo itself. "They protest rodeos," she said, adding that she didn't know anything more.
The pig-scramble protesters went to Town Hall prior to the event to let town officials and the county Sheriff's Office know of their plans. Planning Director Jackie Young, standing in for Town Manager Kevin Bryant, told The Almanac that she was unaware of any town contact with the second group.
Just one child
The pig-scramble protest this year drew between 20 and 25 people to hold signs and wear message-bearing T-shirts. Their efforts drew plenty of thumbs-up gestures and honked horns from passing motorists, Gonzales said.
As for comments from the other side, she recalled that one man said while passing, "Trump was elected," a comment that drew no response from Gonzales or her fellow protesters."We just carefully looked away," she said. "Our goal was not to fight with people."
Unlike the 2017 protest, which included several children, some of whom exchanged words with children who supported the pig scramble, the 2018 protest included just one child, age 3 or 4, Gonzales said.
There were almost no verbal exchanges, she said, adding that only contact between the Mounted Patrol and the pig-scramble protesters came when they arrived around 9 a.m. A Patrol member courteously reminded the protesters where they were permitted to stand, she said.