12-year-old Rose McCoy has always wanted to be an animal activist, protecting or freeing wild creatures in captivity. So when she saw the July 2013 film Blackfish — a documentary that traces the history of killer whales in captivity up to the 2010 death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau — McCoy knew that she wanted to do something more than boycott SeaWorld. But she didn’t expect her passion for these animals would lead to her to arrest.
In a first-person account published on the Dodo, McCoy says it all began when she signed up to attend PETA’s protest of SeaWorld’s float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in November. She stood on the sidelines with other protesters holding a sign to “Boycott SeaWorld,” but she knew she wasn’t going to be seen or heard on national television, so she climbed over the barricade and attempted to run in front of the float. It didn’t last long. “The police officer who stopped my solo protest and walked me back to my mom said that I ruined the parade, and that totally made my day — I had succeeded in getting my message across!” she wrote.
When McCoy heard that SeaWorld was going to have a float at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Years Day, she persuaded her mom to join fellow protesters on the scene. As the parade was about to begin, the protesters lined up and sat in front of the float, preventing it from moving. Eventually, they were taken into custody. McCoy says she spent several hours at the Pasadena Police Department, separated from the adult protesters, including her mom. But the experience only made her feel more strongly about the cause. “As I sat there wondering when I would get to see my mom again, I couldn’t help but think about how the animals at SeaWorld will never be reunited with their families,” she wrote. “Their separations are for life.”