More than 100 people from Vegan Outreach were outside the entrance to the Tar Heel facility which, the company says, processes 30,000 hogs per day and employs 5,000 people. The group says it is attempting to expose cruelty in slaughterhouses and cruelty on factory farms, according to its web site. Many were shouting “Animal liberation. Shut it down.”
Members of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol were called in to help with crowd and traffic control. Capt. Jeff Bridges of the Sheriff’s Office said Smithfield Foods requested the extra security. Law enforcement put up tape to prevent protesters from blocking trucks entering the facility.
A few of the protesters crossed the tape to try to block trucks and were arrested. At least one protester was forced to the ground by several officers after failing to comply, according to phone video from the scene.
“We had tape up to try to keep them out of the roadway, impeding traffic, and they would break the line, come across the line,” Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker told Raleigh’s WRAL-TV on Friday.
One phone video shows 33-year-old Anthony Collini of Orlando, Florida, appear to reach for a trooper’s weapon as he was taken to the ground. Collini was charged with resisting a public officer. He posted bond and was released from Bladen County Jail.
“We were all protesting peacefully and honestly,” Collini told WRAL. “(A trooper) kept touching me without my permission, and I didn’t want that to happen, and he didn’t like that.”
Collini told WRAL that he did not reach for the trooper’s gun. McVicker, who was on scene, said that Collini did try to grab the trooper’s weapon, according to the TV station’s report.
The Highway Patrol announced Friday that no troopers are under formal investigation, but it is reviewing the incident.
None of the 11 other people arrested Thursday were from Bladen County. Only two were from North Carolina. All were charged with failure to disperse and impeding traffic.