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Who is Sasha Zemmel? Animal rights activist in ref jersey disrupts Timberwolves playoff game

Security guards quickly tackled the protestor as players raced for a loose ball until the refs blew the whistle and she was dragged off the court
Sasha Zemmel became the third protester to be removed from the Timberwolves' court in 10 days (Twitter/DxE)
Sasha Zemmel became the third protester to be removed from the Timberwolves' court in 10 days (Twitter/DxE)

An animal rights activist wearing an NBA referee jersey disrupted the playoff game between Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota’s Target Center Saturday night, April 23. 

Sasha Zemmel, who became the third protester to be removed from the court in 10 days, was sitting in the second row courtside behind Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor when she stormed into the court while players fought for a rebound with 10:44 left in the third quarter, per game footage. Security guards quickly tackled Zemmel as players raced for a loose ball until the referees blew the whistle and the activist was dragged off the court. The St. Louis resident was identified in a release from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).


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According to the release, Zemmel donned a makeshift referee jersey with the number 5.3 emblazoned on the back “in honor of the 5.3 million chickens killed" following a bird flu outbreak at Rembrandt Enterprises, an egg factory which is reportedly owned by Taylor. The protestor wore a maroon jacket over the gray jersey as she was tackled by court officials. DxE reported how she "attempted to whistle to stop play as she approached Taylor at his courtside seat, to issue a ‘technical foul and ejection,’ along with a ‘fine’ against Forbes’ richest billionaire in Minnesota.”



It's worth noting that Zemmel is the third protester at a Timberwolves game orchestrated by the organization. On April 16, an animal rights activist chained herself to the basketball stanchion during Game 1 of the playoff series, wearing a t-shirt that read, "Glen Taylor Roasts Animals Alive." The protester attempted to lock herself to the hoop during a play stoppage in the second quarter after hurling flyers on the floor. She was later identified by DxE as Zoe Rosenburg.


Another woman from the organization had staged a protest three days earlier by gluing her wrist to the court during the second quarter of the Timberwolves’ home game against the Clippers. The activist, later identified as Alicia Santurio, was escorted off the court as the glue was not strong enough to stick her to the stanchion.


According to DxE, the protests were carried out to raise awareness about its ongoing investigation into Rembrandt Enterprises, after the Iowa Department of Agriculture confirmed that 5.3 million birds had to be destroyed in Buena Vista County in response to the outbreak of avian flu that reportedly resulted in the culling of millions of poultry birds in the Midwest to mitigate the spread of the disease. Rembrandt is accused of using the controversial practice of "ventilation shutdown" -- in which barns are sealed shut and fans are turned off before heat, steam, or gas is pumped to raise the temperature to the point the animals succumb to overheating or suffocation. Video footage shared by DxE allegedly shows the aftermath of a cull at the farm, with a conveyor belt appearing to transport dead birds from one of the barns onto the back of a semi-truck with an open trailer.


The disturbing practice sparked a protest led by animal rights groups, including Veterinarians Against Ventilation Shutdown, which describes the process as a "brutal, painful method of animal depopulation." While the practice is approved by the USDA, it is only meant for "extreme cases" such as when an infected population is "too large."