NEW YORK—An hour late, after the sun had already set and the angry chants began to fade, the models were finally allowed to get on their carriages, in the dark.
Victor de Souza, designer to the stars, had plans to kick off New York Fashion Week Thursday evening with a mobile show through Central Park, where couture-clad models would loop through the park and down Central Park South on horse-drawn carriages. The New York-based designer apparently had plans to start his Spring 2015 show with a political statement.
The local teamsters union representing horse-drawn carriage drivers had worked together with the designer to put together the show. President George Miranda thought the idea was iconic.
“I think it’s fantastic. Fashion and horse-drawn carriages, what could be more New York?” Miranda said.
Apparently, a protest.
NYClass, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and other individuals who think horse-drawn carriages should be banned on the streets of New York had organized a rally across the street from the starting point of the fashion show.
But as the carriages arrived for the show, the protest heated up.
The crowd marched over, holding signs and shouting slogans, spooking the horses until the carriages had to be moved away. Then the models arrived, holding “Save Our Horses” logos, from the Daily News pro-horse-drawn carriage campaign, and the crowd closed in.
Placards were shoved in people’s faces, and screaming matches drowned out police officers’ calls for people to stand on the sidewalk and out of the way of traffic.
“Just typical New York,” Miranda said as the protesters crowded in, as he helped one of the models into a black SUV for her safety.
“I’m for the ethical treatment of animals, but I’m also for education and understanding of the actual facts and situation,” said one model, who was not from the city.
Robert Rosenberg, a horse-drawn carriage driver of 29 years, said these protesters have been around for as long as he has been working. He hears their arguments and sees their signs, but thinks they are grossly misinformed about how the horses are actually treated.
Nearly an hour later, the carriages were brought back to Central Park South and the models filed out of the SUV, onto the carriages.
Models for the Victor de Souza Fashion Week ride in horse-drawn carriages in Central Park in Manhattan on Sept. 3, 2014. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
“We expected a protest, but not to this extent,” one organizer said.
“But this is all good. Everyone is entitled to his freedom of speech,” another added.
Despite support from several industries, as recently as Tuesday Mayor Bill de Blasio re-affirmed his stance that the horse carriage industry is inhumane and will be banned.
Groups have been lobbying to ban horse-drawn carriages, calling the practice inhumane, for many years. In 2010 City Council passed legislation to ensure the safety of the horses, but supporters of the ban said it did little to help the horses.
Approximately 200 horses are licensed to pull carriages in New York City.
City Hall declined to comment on the usage of horse-drawn carriages in the fashion show.