Three years after he attempted to rush the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally, an animal rights activist Saturday interrupted an event featuring Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris in an attempt to spread his message against animal agriculture.
Aidan Cook, a 24 year-old who is part of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), rushed the stage during MoveOn.Org's Big Ideas Forum in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon and took Harris's microphone. Harris, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was onstage with moderator Karine Jean-Pierre, MoveOn's chief public affairs officer, who jumped in between Cook and Harris after Cook took the microphone.
The mic was cut, so Cook's comments were not heard by the audience. DxE, in a press release, said that Cook "called on Harris to support ordinary citizens rescuing animals rather than the factory farms that abuse animals, sicken local populations and repress whistleblowing activity."
DxE also took particular aim at Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sanders (I-Vt.), both candidates for the 2020 nomination, for their protection of the dairy industry.
Saturday's direct action protest was reminiscent of Cook's last try at interrupting a presidential candidate. On May 30, 2016, Cook and four other members of DxE jumped over barricades at a Bay Area Sanders event in an attempt to rush the stage and advocate for animal rights. Secret Service stopped the protesters before they could reach the stage. Harris, like most other candidates at this early stage in the primary, does not have Secret Service protection.
In comments after being ejected from the conference, Cook stressed to reporters that he didn't intend to be disrespectful. However, not everyone saw it that way, as was apparent in an exchange between the animal rights activist and an event attendee caught on camera by citizen journalist Jenny Shao.
Cook is not being charged with a crime, he said.
In a statement, DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung said that the action was targeted at Harris in part to expose what the group sees as the disconnect between Democratic president candidates and voters.
"Progressive candidates should be advocating for vulnerable populations," said Hsiung, "not abusive corporations."
"The typical voter—especially in the Democratic Party—doesn't approve," Hsiung added, "so we're asking for the the party to end its support for corporate Big Ag."
Cook's protest was timed to coincide with the Animal Liberation Conference, taking place in Berkeley from May 29 to June 4.