Berkeley animal rights activist faces federal charges

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A Berkeley resident and animal rights activist is facing federal charges for allegedly entering a restricted area at a Bernie Sanders rally in Modesto on June 2.

The federal government alleged in a criminal complaint last month that Paul Picklesimer, a member of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, boosted another activist into a sanctioned-off area in front of the stage at the Sanders’ rally and then entered the area himself. He is facing up to a year in jail or a fine of $100,000.

Picklesimer denies the criminal allegations made against him and said that he and the other activist were allegedly dragged over the barrier by a secret service agent.

“I shouldn’t be charged with anything,” Picklesimer said. “Video evidence clearly showed that I was forced over the barrier. I had no control.”

According to the report, federal agents took Picklesimer and Kearney Whelan-Robinson, the woman that Picklesimer allegedly boosted over the barrier, into custody while two other federal agents provided cover to Sanders, who was standing on the platform behind the podium.

Picklesimer and Whelan-Robinson were at the event to protest Sanders for taking money from agricultural companies during his campaign.

“We attempted to pressure Sanders to live up to his standards of protecting the most vulnerable members of our society,” Picklesimer said. “Animals are systematically oppressed.”

After being questioned by federal agents and law enforcement officers, the Direct Action Everywhere activists were informed that they would be prosecuted at a later date. They were then released.

Zach Groff, Direct Action Everywhere spokesperson, called the allegations “ridiculous and baffling.”

“They come nine months after the protest which suggests that there’s something afoul,” Groff alleged “It suggests that it’s an attempt from the federal government, from Trump, to come after activists, especially animal rights activists.”

Contact Ella Jensen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ellajensen_dc.