by Michelle C. Pardo
The leader and co-founder of West-coast based animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), Wayne Hsiung, announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from his leadership position at DxE and explained to his followers “why that’s a good thing.” DxE had become known for its “open rescues” — essentially stealing farm animals in order to “liberate” them — and mass arrests of the activist participants. In these raids, activists openly enter farms, usually at night, and “rescue” animals. They often videotape the incident and release it to various media forums. DxE’s “Organizer’s Handbook” states that the activists involved do not hide their identities so as to avoid being compared to “criminals, vandals and terrorists.” DxE has also favored storming into restaurants and yelling at patrons about eating meat and entering grocery stores and climbing into food cases to protest. One particular disgusting protest involved a DxE activist covering herself in feces at a San Francisco grocery store to protest that eggs come from laying hens that allegedly sit in their own waste. Many of DxE’s members have boldly embraced these extremist techniques even if they involve criminal activity, such as trespassing or stealing. Former leader Hsiung has asked fellow activists before such raids if they are “comfortable” with the possibility of doing jail time.
Hsiung may soon be speaking to his followers from prison. As the result of multiple raids on farms in North Carolina, Utah, and California, Hsiung, along with other activists, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors. Hsiung has stated that he faces from 85 to 100 years in prison for these criminal activities. Various media reports have indicated that trials in these jurisdictions will take place before the end of 2019. We will be sure to update you about the verdicts in those cases.
Several years ago, DxE was plagued with accusations of racist, sexist and homophobic behavior among activists and were roundly criticized for not policing sexual harassment within the organization. One former member stated that a sexual abuser remained in a leadership position in DxE and the victim was pressured into staying silent about her concerns and accepting apologies.
In various social media posts, Hsiung stated that he has stepped down “as felony trials approach” “to make sure we continue to grow.” Hsiung urged his supporters that DxE “has no single ‘head'” and that new leadership is ready to step up and lead the organization. In his August 7, 2019 blog post, regarding DxE members going to prison, Hsiung proclaimed “Bring it on! We’ve got 10 more ready to step up.” Hsiung has since turned the leadership reins over to DxE member Almira Tanner. While Hsiung will not maintain any leadership position, he stated that he will remain a “rank-and-file organizer” and even suggested that he may volunteer for a political campaign “and try to inject animal rights into the 2020 race.” If that happens, query whether it will be executed better than the DxE disruption at Senator Kamala Harris’s speech on June 1, 2019 — where a DxE activist rushed the stage and grabbed the microphone from the Democratic senator. In the wake of bad press on this disruption, former leader Hsiung penned an apology note to Harris (posted on DxE’s website) entitled “I Messed Up. So did DxE.” https://www.directactioneverywhere.com/theliberationist/2019/6/18/i-messed-up-so-did-dxe. Whether DxE’s “mistake” turned into “an important learning experience” is yet to be seen.