NEW YORK - “Is this really the KKK?” somebody asked the woman in the white robe and the pointy hat.
Crowds gawked at a table set up outside Madison Square Garden on Monday afternoon, where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was protesting the start of the Westminster Kennel Club show. PETA contends that the American Kennel Club promotes pure-breeding of dogs that is harmful to their health.
“Welcome AKC Members,” read a banner hanging from the table — with AKC crossed out and KKK written above it. Two PETA protesters dressed as Ku Klux Klan members, while other volunteers handed out brochures that read: “The KKK and the AKC: BFF?”
“Obviously it’s an uncomfortable comparison,” PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said.
But the AKC is trying to create a “master race,” he added. “It’s a very apt comparison.”
David Frei, spokesman for Westminster and TV host of coverage on USA Network, said: “I can’t speak for everyone, but the vast majority of the people exhibiting and handling and showing at Westminster are more interested in the health of dogs than anything else.”
“We want to produce the next generation of healthy and happy dogs,” he said, “not just for the show ring but for the couches at home.”
Most passers-by seemed more puzzled than offended, though those who didn’t stop walked away thinking they really had seen the KKK. The most common reaction was to pull out a cell phone and start snapping photos.
Police monitored the situation from nearby, but the scene was mostly calm. One shouting match broke out during the hour-long protest.
Earlier, a man strode away yelling, “That’s disgusting! I’m going to buy more fur!”
Fatima Walden, who spotted the protest during a shopping trip, called the KKK imagery inappropriate no matter what the message.
“They could have used something else as an example,” she said. “You should be considerate to everybody.”
Westminster Dog Show scenes
Take a visual tour of the preparations and competition for the 133rd annual Westminster Dog Show.
‘It’s an honor’
Feb. 12, 2008: Uno’s handler, Aaron Wilkerson, was speechless after winning best in show at the Westminster dog show.
Feb. 12, 2008: See the final moments and celebration of the beagle Uno winning best in show at the Westminster Dog Show.
Take a look at some past Best in Show winners at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.