Customers at the legendary, Berkeley, California restaurant Chez Panisse got quite the surprise on Friday when a group of 10 to 15 animal-rights activists burst into the dining room “screaming and yelling.”
According to the website Berkleyside, the protesters were part of Direct Action Everywhere—the same group that poured blood on competitors at the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest earlier this year—and entered the restaurant holding bundles of flowers. The stunt was part of the organization's #FlowersforAnimals campaign, which asks members to protest animal cruelty by barging into restaurants, placing flowers on customers plates, and then posting the footage to social media.
Though there appeared to be no blood this time, there were plenty of theatrics at Chez Panisse, with protesters chastising the customers for eating meat.
"I come to you today with a message of compassion. A message on behalf of the billions of animals exploited, who are tortured and killed by humans every year,” Matt Johnson, one of the activists with DxE, told diners, according to a press release. “They experience the same pain, the same joy, the same love of life and they have it have it ripped away from them and are brutally killed for the mere crime of being different than ourselves.”
Although the activists entered Chez Panisse around 10 p.m., the restaurant didn’t call the police until 11p.m. Ultimately, five members of the group were detained, though the restaurant declined to press charges. The activists claim they were “hit, shoved," and “assaulted” while being forced out of the dining room.
The irony, of course, is that of all restaurants, Chez Panisse and its famed owner Alice Waters are known for using organic, ethically-sourced ingredients, operating in Berkeley since 1971 and inspiring Michelle Obama’s own garden at the White House.
“For 45 years Chez Panisse has been committed to clean, fair, and just food systems,” the restaurant said in a statement to Berkleyside. “We support farmers, fisheries, and ranches that practice the humane and healthy raising of food. We also recognize that there are many ideas about food and that everyone has a right to express their opinion.”