'Chicken' attack leaves pie, not egg, on Perdue's face

February 29, 1992|By Lou Ferrara | Lou Ferrara,Contributing Writer

Frank Perdue got a pie in the face yesterday from a woman in a chicken suit at the University of Maryland Board of Regents meeting.

University officials were not amused. Nor was Mr. Perdue.

"Idiots are idiots, and that's all," the 71-year-old Eastern Shore poultry magnate said of the animal-rights activists who staged yesterday's guerrilla theater and wound up in jail.

"I did it in protest for the millions of chickens Frank Perdue killed," said the pie-wielding chicken, Jennifer Woods of Gaithersburg, in handcuffs after leading police officers on a 10-minute chase around the University of Baltimore campus.

Mr. Perdue's company is the fourth-largest poultry producer in the nation, and he has been shadowed by animal-rights activists since joining the regents last year. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- PETA -- claimed responsibility for the pie attack.

University Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg expressed "outrage" at the "harassment and intimidation" of a businessman volunteering time to serve on the board.

"I am particularly incensed that people who claim to support the ethical treatment of animals can be so blatantly unethical, immoral and inhumane in the treatment of fellow humans," the chancellor said.

Mrs. Woods, 29, was charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct. Three others -- Juliana Aleva, 20, of Silver Spring; Heidi Prescott, 33, of Gaithersburg; and Susan Brebnor, 41, of Silver Spring -- were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, police said.

"Frank Perdue has been on our hit list for some time," said Steven Simmons, a spokesman for the Rockville-based animal-rights group. "We don't know where and when the next pie will be. We would not engage in any actions that would physically harm any individuals."

Ironically, Mr. Perdue had said before the meeting, "I'm surprised that there are no protesters here. Usually, there is somebody here to criticize me."

He said later that it was the worst confrontation he has had, but he vowed to continue his work on the board.

The incident occurred at 11:45 a.m. during an otherwise routine meeting of the university's overseers, who were seated on the stage of the University of Baltimore Moot Courtroom. UB is part of the University of Maryland System.

Eight activists in the audience of 50 suddenly jumped up and began shouting, "Cluck you, Frank Perdue!"

Most of the protesters had been posing as members of the news media. Mr. Simmons said this was done so they would go undetected in the audience.

Five university police officers began removing the activists from the room when the outbreak occurred. Two were carried out when they refused to move on their own.

With the police diverted, Mrs. Woods appeared from backstage wearing a chicken outfit, ran up to Mr. Perdue and shoved a cream pie in his face.

She exited stage right and ran out a door into an alley next to the building, with two officers in hot pursuit. They caught up with her about 10 minutes later, not far from the university law center at the intersection of Charles and Oliver streets.

Chief Kay A. Windsor of the University of Baltimore police said Mrs. Woods apparently had changed into the costume in a restroom, then somehow "jimmied open" the back doors to the stage.

The regents adjourned their regular monthly meeting for a half hour to give Mr. Perdue a chance to clean up before resuming consideration of a proposal to eliminate free tuition for non-teaching university employees.

Mr. Perdue eventually left the meeting about an hour earlier than scheduled, saying that a dentist appointment -- and not the protesters' actions -- forced him to leave.

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