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Activists go topless at embassy to protest treatment of bulls in Spain

WASHINGTON—Protests are commonplace in Washington, but 14 members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals caused a stir Tuesday by baring nearly all in front of the Spanish Embassy to protest the annual running of the bulls and bullfights in Spain.

The animal-rights activists arrived wearing bullhorns—and little else. The nine women and five men were bare-chested, clad only in underpants. Under the watchful and curious eyes of a largely male crowd, the protesters chanted "Torture is not part of my culture" in Spanish, held signs reading "Stop the bloody bullfights," distributed fliers and waved to passers-by for nearly an hour.

PETA organizer William Rivas-Rivas said the protest was meant to be "fun and upbeat," but also to open people's eyes to the suffering that bulls endure during the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

"A lot of the tourists who are going to the running of the bulls have no idea that those same bulls will be tortured and slaughtered that very evening in the bullring," he said.

The Spanish Embassy wouldn't comment on the protest.

The running of the bulls is an annual event in Pamplona to commemorate St. Fermin. Starting July 7, young men try to outrun a herd of bulls charging through the street. Six of the bulls are then killed in bullfights each night for a week.

This is the first time PETA has held its "Running of the Nudes" protest in Washington. Rivas-Rivas called it a good "warm-up for Pamplona," where PETA will have a similar demonstration for the fourth year in a row. That protest is expected to draw 600 animal-rights activists.

The Washington protesters attracted a modest crowd that included construction workers, tourists and businessmen. Nearly every one used camera phones or disposable cameras to photograph the demonstrators. Embassy workers peered out of their windows, mostly smiling and shaking their heads. Several times during the event, police officers had to direct traffic, which slowed significantly as drivers cruised by, honking and waving.

"Drive! It's a green light!" one frustrated officer yelled at motorists who stopped mid-intersection to stare.

Pat Edwards, a worker in a nearby office who stopped to watch, called the protest a great idea.

"Lunchtime, downtown, with your clothes off, you're gonna get attention," she said.

The protest drew plenty of attention from passing men, some of whom urged friends to stop by. "I'm at 2300 Pennsylvania Avenue. Get down here right now—don't ask any questions," one man yelled into his cell phone.

Police Officer J.D. Herold said the nearly nude protest was legal under city law. "As long as they keep their bottoms on, they're OK," he said.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PETA-BULLS

ARCHIVE GRAPHIC on KRT Direct (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20040708 Pamplona bulls

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