LA Progressive

Actor Martin Sheen Signs Petition to Free the Ponies in Santa Monica

Sheen joins Hollywood Favorites Haskell Wexler & Mimi Kennedy

Former Acting President on West Wing, Martin Sheen has signed a Move On petition to untether the ponies shackled to a metal carousel at the Sunday Main Street Farmers Market.

After viewing photos of sad ponies with metal bars across their faces, circling for hours in one direction on concrete, Sheen signed my petition. Next to his signature, he wrote “Enough!” to call for a halt to the animal exploitation. Joining Sheen in signing the petition was actress Mimi Kennedy, a star on the popular television sitcom “Mom” and two time Academy Award winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, a Santa Monica resident who wrote, “It doesn’t look like a pretty picture to me.”

Martin Sheen is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor and social activist who has campaigned for peace, farm workers’ rights, animal rights, and nuclear disarmament.

Sheen, Kennedy, and Wexler join the list of 1,955 signatories to the petition objecting to the tethered pony ride and cramped petting zoo occupying the prime real estate of the market entrance and exit. The petition reads, “Rather than teach children that animals are here for our entertainment and exploitation, let us encourage young people to take nature walks and observe animals in their natural habitats or at sanctuaries. We urge the City of Santa Monica to take a leadership role in the protection of animals.”

Animal vendors Tawni Angel and Jason Nester sued local residents Danielle Charney and me, along with 20 unnamed defendants, for protesting the exhibits in a petition drive to urge the Santa Monica City Council to end the animal exploitation at the Main Street Farmers Market. Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart Cole dismissed the defamation lawsuit against Charney, calling it a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP aimed at chilling public debate and silencing dissent – and ruled Charney was entitled to collect thousands of dollars in attorney fees from Angel and Nester.

I am taking my First Amendment fight to the California Court of Appeal, where I will argue that the U.S. Constitution protects my right to protest and petition.

In addition, Cole dismissed half of the suit against me – and denied the animal vendors’ request for prior restraint, an injunction against speech the U.S. government couldn’t even obtain against anti-war hero Daniel Ellsberg and the New York Times in publishing the Pentagon Papers. I am taking my First Amendment fight to the California Court of Appeal, where I will argue that the U.S. Constitution protects my right to protest and petition.

“I have witnessed the chilling effect of this lawsuit,” I have written. “Residents in Santa Monica tell me they are afraid that if they exercise their First Amendment rights, they will also be targeted in a costly and stressful lawsuit. It’s a shame that a City vendor would attempt to silence the voices of dissent, rather than encourage robust public debate in the marketplace of ideas. My question is – Who is paying for the vendors to target local residents? On the vendors’ counter-petition posted on Jason Nester’s facebook page, they discourage donations and say their litigation costs are covered. I think the residents of Santa Monica have a right to know who is subsidizing this attack on free speech.”

On September 9, 2014, the Santa Monica City Council instructed City Staff to give preference to non-animal vendors when Angel and Nester’s contract expires in May.

I[/c]n speaking on the issue, both Angel and I thanked the lawmakers for staying late into the night and early morning to hear their testimony. The Council also instructed City Staff to explore alternative more spacious locations for an untethered pony ride.

Marcy Winograd