The protests began early Wednesday outside the River Bluff Dental office in Bloomington, Minnesota. Dr. Walter Palmer is the target of international outrage after he reportedly paid more than $50,000 to kill the beloved Cecil the Lion at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Bloomington police estimated about 200 people were at the demonstration and no arrests were made.
"Everyone in attendance dispersed on their own with no law enforcement involvement," police said in a statement. "There were no incidents reported during this peaceful demonstration and no arrests were made."
Portrait artist Mark Balma was among the first to arrive, setting up his canvas and paints in the parking lot. His subject: Cecil the Lion.
“It’s a real tragedy. These are great creatures,” Balma said. “It’s my silent protest, if you think of it that way. But it’s also giving attention to Cecil, rather than the dentist.”
Bloomington police shut down the half-block around the office, which became ground zero for the outrage and anger over the big money, big trophy lion hunt in Zimbabwe. Minneapolis mother Sarah Madison dressed her 3-year-old son in a lion costume with a sign that captured her disgust – “protect me, don’t hunt me.”
“I really want the national and international community to know that Minnesota is just as outraged and ashamed,” Madison said. “And we need to look at big hunting practices.”
Bloomington police statement
“The Bloomington Police Department is aware of a protest being organized on social media for this afternoon at the River Bluff Dental Office in Bloomington. We do not discuss our operational plans before an event nor the numbers of officers involved. Our primary concern is the overall safety of those individuals involved in the protest or who live or work in the area. In preparation for this planned protest, some streets or turn lanes in the area may be blocked to assist with crowd control or traffic flow.”
There were no incidents reported overnight, according to police.
Shades closed at dental practice
The shades at Palmer's dental practice, River Bluff Dental, were drawn on Tuesday. A dental staffer told Fox 9 it would likely be closed for the remainder of the week, and its website and Facebook presence has been removed. Meanwhile, people from all over the country have flooded his practice's Yelp page to compose nasty reviews and various hate messages.
The office on Rhode Island Avenue has a herd of stuffed animals on the doorstep, and a planned protest by local Animal Rights Coalition will ensue there this afternoon.
Statement to media
“In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.
I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have. Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
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Cecil was baited at night with a dead animal tied to a car and lured away from the park, then shot with a bow and arrow. He was reportedly found about 40 hours later by trackers and was shot with a gun, beheaded and skinned. Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and landowner Honest Trymore Ndlovu each face felony poaching charges.
Bronkhorst pleaded not guilty to failing to prevent an unlawful hunt on Wednesday and Ndlovu will appear before a judge at a later date. Zimbabwe wildlife officials said Palmer has also been accused of poaching. Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president Emmanuel Fundira said at a news conference that Palmer is the wanted hunter, and authorities don't know where he is.
BACKSTORY - Minnesota dentist believed Zimbabwe lion killing was legal
Organizers admitted the hunt was poorly planned, and Bronkhorst reported the "mistake" to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the next day. Authorities also stated "the lion trophy has also been confiscated."
"Ongoing investigations to date, suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015. Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges," Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement.
"In this case, both the professional hunter and land owner had no permit or quota to justify the offtake of the lion and therefore are liable for the illegal hunt," the statement continues.