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Animal rights protesters to target Kennywood, other Palace Entertainment parks

| Saturday, May 9, 2015, 10:56 a.m.

With increased police presence planned in response to last week's disturbance at Kennywood, park officials are bracing for Saturday protesters seeking release of a killer whale from a Florida park.

West Mifflin police said Friday that a protest is scheduled between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the vicinity of Kennywood by groups wanting Miami Seaquarium to release Lolita the orca.

Palace Entertainment owns Kennywood, Miami Seaquarium and several other theme parks and water parks.

The “Shut Down The Palace” protest is aimed at Palace parks in West Mifflin, Lancaster, California, Florida, New York and Connecticut.

Lolita was captured in 1970 in Puget Sound near Seattle and sold to Miami Seaquarium.

Protest organizers say Lolita lived with an orca named Hugo until his death in 1980.

Animal rights groups want Lolita moved to “a protected cove sea pen” where she can be transitioned to the ocean.

Kennywood this week promised more police on hand to prevent a repeat of last weekend's fight that forced the park to close early on its opening day of the season. That incident was unrelated to the planned protest.

“West Mifflin Police Department has been monitoring this planned event,” Chief Ken Davies said. “All indications are that this event is for informational picketing that will be restricted from park property but will be permitted near the parking lot drive entrances and exits without inhibiting ingress and egress.”

Davies did not expect any type of disturbance and said his officers will maintain a presence both on park property and street access areas.

In a statement, Palace Entertainment CEO Fernando Eiroa sought to stress the Newport Beach, Calif.-based company's commitment “to providing wholesome family entertainment that is safe, a great value and exceeds guest expectations” in 22 locations.

“Our animal parks follow the strict guidelines of the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums,” Eiroa said. “(This) event by anti-aquarium and anti-marine park activists, which has nothing to do with Kennywood, is designed to call into question the dedication, care and value institutions like ours provide.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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