Circus protestor: I wanted to swipe even more signs

Marilyn Flynn, 84, with her rescue dog Alec. (Cyndi Murray photo)
Marilyn Flynn, 84, with her rescue dog Alec in her Cutchogue home Friday morning. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Marilyn Flynn has no regrets.

Less than 24 hours after her arrest and subsequent interrogation, the 84-year-old was calm while recounting the ordeal as she sat at her dining room table Friday morning.

“I feel fine. There is no other reason to feel otherwise,” Ms. Flynn said. “They are calling it petit larceny but it is an act of civil disobedience.”

As Ms. Flynn was eating dinner Thursday evening, two police officers knocked on her door. The officers cuffed her and escorted her down to the station on a petit larceny charge for stealing two signs that were promoting Cole Bros. Circus coming to Greenport.

Earlier that day, a passing motorist had observed her removing the signs from Main Road in Peconic. A circus employee then wished to pursue charges, police said.

The officers found the two stolen signs at Ms. Flynn’s home, police said.

A longtime critic of the Cole Bros. Circus, Ms. Flynn admitted to pulling the signs from the side of Main Road because she believes the organization promotes cruelty to elephants — forcing them to live in confined quarters while being mistreated by circus staff, she said.

She would have grabbed more signs, she said, had her car not interfered with traffic.

Ms. Flynn said she spent nearly two hours handcuffed to an interrogation table for questioning. She was then released on $100 bail and driven back to her Cutchogue home.

“I told one of the policeman who drove me home — who said it was nice meeting me under these very strange circumstances — thanks for the ride and got out of the car and went back home,” she said.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said the department was obligated to arrest her, given the evidence.

“It was very clear that the owner of the signs wanted to pursue charges,” he said, adding that the signs were recovered.


This is Ms. Flynn’s first arrest, but she is no stranger to protesting the circus, which is returning to Greenport next weekend. She has previously helped organize and attended local protests against the circus and has also attended meetings asking the Greenport Fire Department to stop hosting the annual event.

“They don’t seem to realize that what they are doing is condoning animal cruelty,” she said. “The children that go to see the animals don’t know what they are looking at. If they knew how the elephants were being treated, they would have nightmares.”

Kenny White, who serves as chairman of the event for the Greenport Fire Department, said Friday there are no plans to cancel the circus.

“The animals are treated very, very well,” Mr. White said. “I have no problem. Just because a few people complain we still bring four to five thousand spectators in, so, to me it’s like the minority trying to rule the majority.”

Representatives of Cole Bros. Circus have repeatedly disputed allegations made by animal rights groups. On Friday, the company declined to immediately comment on Ms. Flynn’s arrest.

Ms. Flynn is due back in court at a later date, police said.

Cole Bros. Circus visits the Greenport Polo Grounds next Thursday, July 24 and Friday, July 25.

A protest is scheduled at 4 p.m. opening night.

Ms. Flynn plans to attend.

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