ACLU Defends PETA's Next-to-Nude "Tiger Lady" Against Indecency Charges for Exposing Cruelty to Animals

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
July 24, 2001 12:00 am

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SHREVEPORT, LA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana entered court today to defend the free speech rights of “Tiger Lady” Cynthia Lieberman and other protesters with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who were arrested here on May 29 on charges of “indecent acts and obstruction of public passage.”

“The only indecent act that took place was the violation of the protesters’ free speech rights,” said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “The Shreveport Police Department exists to protect and serve, including the rights of those with whom they may disagree.”

In mimicking the conditions that tigers in the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus are forced to endure, Cynthia Lieberman, a 32-year-old protester from Denver, painted her flesh like an exotic tiger and sat in a cage under a banner reading, “Wild Animals Don’t Belong Behind Bars.”

Lieberman said she put on a bathing suit bottom and “pasties” to cover herself underneath the paint.

“I wanted to make people stop and think that a tiger’s life in the circus is no life at all,” said Lieberman. “Trainers use whips, muzzles, electric prods, and bull hooks on animals in order to force wild animals to perform stressful acts, like jumping through fire.”

Two of Lieberman’s fellow protesters, Susan Gross and Kristie Phelps of Virginia, were charged with “obstruction of public passage.”

After the three enter a “not guilty” plea at a municipal court hearing this morning, the ACLU will file a motion with the court to quash all of the charges brought against Lieberman, Gross and Phelps on the grounds that the arrest on indecency and obstruction of public passage violated their right to free speech.

“What matters here is the First Amendment and the right of everyone — from whatever viewpoint — to speak in the public arena,” said Henry Walker, an ACLU of Louisiana cooperating attorney.

According to PETA, Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus forces animals to perform frightening, disorienting, and even painful acts for up to 50 weeks every year. Between acts, elephants are kept in shackles, unable to take two steps, and bears and tigers are “stored” in cages barely large enough for them to turn around in.

PETA’s “Tiger Lady” was arrested on similar charges in Oklahoma. The ACLU of Oklahoma will also be challenging her arrest in court.

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