Friday, December 4, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 21st, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 34 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 34

PETA protests Solvang Trolley, owners blame City Council member

By Karen Garcia

The Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company is again at odds with City Council member Chris Djernaes, as the business’s owners claim Djernaes is the reason PETA protested outside their business on Oct. 10.

Protesters stood outside of the Solvang Trolley on Copenhagen Drive, speaking into a megaphone and holding signs that read “Honor Hazel with Ban on Horse-Drawn Carriages!” 

The Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company blames City Councilmember Chris Djernaes for PETA protestors that organized a protest of the business Oct. 10.

The Orona family claims that the protests caused them to cease trolley rides that day. During the Oct. 12 Solvang City Council meeting, Solvang Trolley co-owners Lorena and Hector and their son Sal Jr. Orona alleged that PETA was contacted by the owner of Esko Esko, a local gift apparel and accessory store.

Sal Jr. posted a video recording on YouTube of Djernaes speaking with the PETA protesters that Saturday. Most of the video’s audio is muffled by music and other nearby sounds, but it’s clear that Djernaes asks protesters who they were contacted by or who supports them. An unidentified protester says they have a contact with a location in Solvang, but they don’t have his name. 

Djernaes asks if it’s Esko, and the protester says “probably.” 

Esko Esko owner Esko K.T. Lama responded to the allegations during public comment, saying he’s a local business owner and it’s very normal for him to talk to people who are in town or in front of his store because he wants to know what’s happening in town. 

“I have no control over PETA. I did not invite PETA people. Yes, I spoke to them but I don’t think I need a permit, to speak to PETA people, from others,” Lama said. 

The Orona family claims Djernaes has ties to the Oct. 10 protest because he is friends with Lama. 

“I’m tired of worrying about the harassment instigated by Mr. Djerneas, every time I come to work. You see a business but you don’t see all the work behind us,” Lorena said.

Community members and Solvang Trolley owners clashed with the council member in July during the business’s one-year license renewal. On Oct. 12, several public commenters called for the council to “take action” against Councilmember Djernaes. Solvang resident Linda Palmer said she was appalled that a city official did not recognize the impact the protesters have on businesses. 

“The protesters were walking up and down the sidewalk in Copenhagen in front of the businesses and several times blocked access to a business simply by their presence and the large signs,” Palmer said. “[Djernaes] can support PETA if he wants, but he cannot do it as an official of this city, so I call upon him to immediately resign if he’s going to damage Solvang’s image. At the very least I suggest the City Council censure him and disqualify him from all future discussions and votes on horse-drawn carriages.” 

Djernaes requested to respond to the allegations, saying “it’s not true,” but the council denied his request and continued with its meeting agenda—the council neither took action nor responded to the community’s claims.

The Sun reached out to Djernaes for comment, but he did not respond before press time. 

PETA said it had planned to gather at the Solvang Visitor Center to continue the work of Hazel Mortensen, a Solvang resident and PETA supporter who recently died. According to a media release from the organization, Mortensen campaigned for years against “the city’s archaic” horse-drawn carriage and trolley rides. 

“PETA is calling on the city to honor Hazel Mortensen’s memory by outlawing an old-fashioned business that broke her heart and that harms horses as well as Solvang’s reputation,” PETA Senior Vice President of Campaigns Dan Mathews said in the statement.

Weekly Poll
Would a second stay-at-home order be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

No, pandemic fatigue is too high to get people to follow a stay-at-home order.
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