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Protesters flood Petaluma duck farm

Hundreds of animal welfare protesters descended on a west Petaluma duck farm late Monday morning, some chaining themselves together at the gate, according to initial law enforcement reports.

Members of Direct Action Everywhere dubbed the day a “slaughterhouse lockdown” and came prepared with water, food and music, intending to remain awhile.

The group live-streamed the demonstration on its Facebook page, showing several people in matching royal blue T-shirts blocking the entrance. Some protesters held ducks that they said they found dead on the farm. The video also showed a growing group of what appeared to be hundreds of people walking to the entrance of Reichardt Duck Farm on Middle Two Rock Road.

A call to the duck farm wasn’t immediately returned.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said 10 people had been detained as of 1:30 p.m., but arrest charges weren’t immediately available.

CHP, Petaluma police and sheriff’s deputies had mobilized midmorning as reports came in of several buses of activists coming into Sonoma County from the Bay Area.

The sheriff’s helicopter flew above the buses, tracking their path and guiding law enforcement officers to the property. About 20 deputies were responding, according to a sheriff’s official. Trespassing arrests were expected.

Just before 1:30 p.m., sheriff’s officials issued a public alert telling travelers to stay clear of the area due to the protest and blocked roads. About the same time more than two dozen law enforcement officers, some carrying rifles and others in SWAT gear, arrived on the farm.

Some protesters reportedly went onto the property initially, taking 31 injured birds for aid. Others said they’d connected their necks to equipment where the birds had been hanging, forcing workers to turn off the conveyor belt.

However, one organizer said the equipment then was turned back on, injuring at least one man. The man later was checked by paramedics at the property and taken by ambulance to a hospital for further medical attention.

Organizers on the video said they would leave if deputies began an animal cruelty investigation. They also asked injured birds to be removed from the farm.

In 2014, protesters accused the Reichardt Duck Farm of animal cruelty after one of its members got a job at the longtime ranch and secretly videotaped what they claimed was evidence of mistreatment. An investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office turned up no evidence of animal cruelty at the property.

Sonoma County Farm Bureau warned its members early Monday that about a half dozen buses with members of Direct Action Everywhere were in Petaluma.

Bureau staff members went to a Petaluma poultry ranch visited last year by the activist group to be on hand to help the farmers in case the activists arrive, said Tawny Tesconi, the bureau’s executive director. The bureau has developed a system for alerting its members when animal rights groups come to town so that they can close their gates and take measures to try to prevent trespassing, Tesconi said.

“Our members have asked to give us a call so others can be prepared, so they can ensure animals aren’t stolen or hurt by the activists,” Tesconi said.

A Direct Action Everywhere spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a text message asking about the action.

Check back for updates.

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