On June 2, Caesar the No Drama Llama went viral again after he and his owner Larry McCool joined the Portland march and “die-in” in memory of George Floyd, and in honor of Black Lives Matter.
Caesar and McCool marched two and a half miles with participants, joined in a moment of silence and die-in on the Burnside Bridge, and attended the Pioneer Courthouse Square protest. The featured photograph shows Ceasar with protestors during the “die in” on the Burnside Bridge.
The Local Llama Sensation
Caesar is a therapy llama from Jefferson who regularly interacts with a variety of people. McCool hoped Caesar would be a calming presence and morale boost at the protests. He also hoped Caesar’s notoriety and platform would help amplify the message of Black lives Matter and the Portland protest.
Caesar’s social media director Ariel Knox, also an activist, offered additional insight: “We did so with an eye on how to bring more attention to causes we feel are vitally important. #BlackLivesMatter is especially near and dear to the members of Team Caesar who are BIPOC themselves, so Caesar is representing his team there too.”
McCool Debunks Tear Gas Rumors
Throughout the day, McCool said he saw people acting with positive purpose and saw no trouble. So he was a little surprised when he learned that some of the online discussions involved a rumor that Caesar was nearly tear gassed. People posted concerns over Caesar’s safety. Even Star Trek actor and social media mavin George Takei shared an article on Facebook that implied that Caesar was almost tear gassed.
McCool wanted to assure everyone that Caesar was never in any danger. Caesar was with McCool in Pioneer Square while the confrontation took place near the Multnomah County Justice Center.
While he did hear “flash-bangs” and could smell the scent of tear gas, they were easily four blocks away from the incident. The Portland TV station KGW reported that a small group of individuals who left the main protest tried to breach the fencing surrounding the Justice Center. Police were focused on keeping it secure since it had been the target of other incidents a few days before.
McCool described what he and Caesar experienced at the Portland march and protest as positive. McCool said he didn’t intend to bring Caesar, but after talking with a friend and Portland-area activist he decided to bring Caesar, hoping he might help provide a calming presence and help diffuse some anxiety.
As a seasoned activist, McCool has participated in marches, rallies and protests, for issues such as civil rights, voters rights, the environment, and women’s rights – starting as a high school student in the late 1960s.
Throughout the day, protesters greeted Caesar, hugged him, and posed for pictures with him. McCool estimates that Caesar may have been hugged by at least 500 people throughout the day and photographed by well over a thousand.
“Sometimes six people at a time would hug him.”
McCool described an especially poignant moment while crossing the Burnside Bridge. Everyone stopped for a moment of silence and most marchers laid down on the bridge face-down for the “die in” which lasted around 9 minutes. Caesar and McCool stood silently.
According to McCool, Caesar “did not move or get fidgety. He masterfully just stood there.” The photograph featured in this post was taken by a participant.
“It was probably the most poignant picture that I saw from the protest,” said McCool.
Another highpoint for McCool was the rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
A Positive Protest
“We were right in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square with 10,000 really positive people protesting and getting the word out about what’s going on,” said McCool. “They were there for a purpose and got their message across.”
The Willamette Week reported that in Pioneer Courthouse Square, speakers shared stories about loved ones they lost to the hands of police officers, while others shared examples of the racial discrimination they experienced over the years.
McCool said they had the opportunity to meet some of the speakers who came over to hug Caesar, take photos, or talk with Larry.
McCool felt there is a symbolism to a voiceless being like Caesar participating in a march when there are so many humans in the United States who feel like they don’t have a voice or “are not represented in society.”
“One creature who can’t speak was there to speak for those who felt they have no voice in life,” said McCool. “That was the analogy of Caesar being there.”
McCool said he felt encouraged to see so many young people, including teenagers participating and using their voices heard in peaceful ways.
“I like the intensity,” said McCool. “I was so amazed at how many young people were there at the march.”
Photos and videos of Caesar at Tuesdays events went viral on social media and McCool gave interviews to reporters from throughout Oregon and beyond on Wednesday and Thursday. He plans to continue to show his support at other events like the recent June 6 March For Floyd at the State Capital in Salem.
By Samantha Sied