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"Oh, here's the biggest seal-hater of them all," yells La Jolla seal activist MarJane Aalam. "Don't go down there, John, there are pups down there."

A bright spotlight turns on. "I'll put you on YouTube, John. Say hello for YouTube," Aalam taunts from the top of the stairs.

Not acknowledging her, John Leek, Serra Mesa resident and secretary for the Council of Divers, descended the concrete steps toward the beach where dozens of seals lay on the sand. The middle-aged man says he spends more than 15 hours a week researching the issue, filing appeals to the city, and testifying to the California Coastal Commission. On Thursday, February 18, at 8 p.m., Leek walked toward the middle of a 130-foot rope barrier toward a city sign. The sign warns against harassing seals; it also assures public access to the beach.

"Say hello for YouTube, John, and whoever your little friend is," came shouts from above.

Leek bent over and crossed under the rope and walked toward a rock on the east side of the beach, passing a mother seal and her small pup along the way.

"I don't hate seals and there is no such thing as an anti-seal person. That is a bogyman," Leek said, leaning against the rock. "Any person that stands up to the seal-display industry is portrayed as a seal-hating misanthrope."

The seal-display industry that Leek refers to is the collection of activists that hover over the beach dissuading divers, swimmers, and anyone else from stepping onto the sand and disturbing the seals, all while collecting donations at makeshift booths on the sidewalk.

From the rock at Children's Pool, Leek reiterates his stance: "The seals are fine, bottom line is we have been denied the ability to go on public land by thugs and by harassment and that's not right. We want to share the beach with the seals and that's the law."

Leek then walked toward the stairs and ascended the concrete steps where Aalam waited, holding a small video recorder in her left hand. The two exchanged words and then Leek walked to his car. Seconds later, a San Diego police cruiser arrived on the scene. Two policemen exited their vehicle.

"Thanks for coming, but they are gone now," Aalam said.

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Comments

Ken Harrison Feb. 24, 2010 @ 8:43 a.m.

I love watching seals. We take all of our out-of-town friends down to La Jolla Cove to see them. But we humans, sane ones anyway, have dominion over animals, and the beach is for all God's creatures, and that includes divers. It's like the polar bear debut. In my son's school, a girl made a presentation on the supposedly declining polar bears, and finished it up with "I cry for the polar bear." My son said he cries when the polar bear rips the head off a baby seal. We're all part of the earth.

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ljdiver Feb. 24, 2010 @ 9:34 p.m.

Come on Dorian, MarJane Aalam? How many times do you think she has been arrested? For assault! How many times has John Leek been arrested??? Follow the money...Who pays Marjane? How does Marjane pay her guards that are there every night? What is at stake here? Do you think the activists make more money here than at other locations? Are you really a reporter? Sorry my mind just went off. How many other seal haulout sites exist where there are pup births around San Diego? ...Hum Point Loma! Are there activists there at those sites? Is Sealwatch the group that Marjane works for? Is Sealwatch part of APRL, Animal Protection and Rescue League? Don't they operate Savesandiegoseals ? How much money do they take in? How much money does Marjane make? Insted of talking about John, are you at all interested in how the activists have made some $881,084 from 2006 - 2008? You know with that kind of money the sand could have been removed and the water quality would be perfect for swimming and diving! How much money do you make? Sorry my mind just went off. Check out the real Sealwatch, Savesandiegoseals and APRL at http://www.youtube.com/user/spearfishinglajolla

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SDcitizen Feb. 24, 2010 @ 9:54 p.m.

Everyone loves seals. The eco-thugs are trying to position themselves as the savior of seals when these seals are fine sharing the access just as they do in other part of the country or even other parts of California. Look up how humans and seals share beaches fine in Washington State, Maine, etc.

But without the boogeyman of "save the seals", these opportunists can't hoodwink tourists to part from their donation dollars. In the process, rightful public beach access are denied to citizens of San Diego. If this is allowed to happen, what happens next when seals want to move to some other beach? More thuggery? Why are the thugs focusing on the seals, which are not endangered or threatened (look it up), near a tourist-filled area to create this issue? Don't see them trying to save the seals down in less touristy Point Loma.

Because seals are cuddly and that helps tourists part with donation cash. Sad what some would do for a few bucks...

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stevencabo Feb. 24, 2010 @ 10:28 p.m.

Maryjane needs to get laid so she'll stop harrasing people from enjoying the beach.

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Lobzila Feb. 25, 2010 @ 3:09 a.m.

This one very one running scam by Marjan and friends to rip off tourist's at the site. The information they spew is far from the truth and not grounded in scientific fact at all. The seals are cute and cuddly, and fun to swim with. They are also not protected, not on any endangered list, or there numbers in decline anywhere, let alone at the childrens pool. This is not a natural haul out for the seals. It was created by Ellen Browning Scripts so children, not seals, could learn to swim and interact with the ocean in a safe area. Hopefully poor Ellen is not spinning in her grave over how the F.O.S. (full of sh-er, friend of seals) have violated the same area she donated and devoloped to see children laughing and playing in the ocean. The seals started showing up when Sea World began releasing rehabed animals they had picked up along the coast that were injured or sick. These are animals that nature would of let die, yet Marjan and her con squad just continue to make more money off there cute little faces. I encourage you and everyone else to go down there, put on a wetsuit and mask and snorkel and swim around in that area and see how they swim right up to you. Do not try to touch them, but observe them. Beware upon your exit that you will be accused of killing one or two, causing a still born among the seals, assualted, tasered on a good day, or called a child molester by Marjan and company. Don't try and argue with them, as they never let the facts get in the way of there personnel beliefs. Remember each seal eats roughly ten pounds of sea food a day and as you swim there, look around the barren area that was once a thriving reef before the seals were dropped off, the imbalance of man has struck again. If the seals are forced off the beach, they will survive and relocate elsewhere. There are several huge colonies of them on Point Loma, but Point Loma is too far away for Marjan and company to get the exposure she needs to justify her life. I like seeing the seals when I swim there, I just wish I saw the same amount of fish there from ten years ago. So sad.

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Fouts Feb. 25, 2010 @ 7:40 a.m.

How is it legal for such harrassment by marjane towards tax paying citizens to legally use the beach?

If people are harrassing seals, then law enforcement should deal with them, not this terrorist.

Seals are awesome species, FOS is a eco thug group, that uses intimidation to deny our legal right to use childrens pool.

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swimswithseal Feb. 25, 2010 @ 7:51 a.m.

La Jolla Friends Of Seals are nothing more than a modern day iteration of Hitler's Brown Shirts. The FOS intimidates and harrasses people for exercising the simple LEGAL right to walk on a public beach without bothering the seals.

I have personally seen and spoken to the SDPD about assaults, batteries, vandalism, and public by-way restrictions by the FOS. The FOS are eco-terrorists, plain and simple. The FBI should look into them, as the FOS takes the publics RIGHT's away!

I swim with seals, as do my friends. The seals are awesome creatures in their natural habitat. None of the FOS I've spoken with have even been in the water. They're motivation is to infringe others legal rights, so the oppressors can feel powerful about themselves.

It doesn't matter if it's seals, spotted owls, or Rodney King, the FOS just wants a "cause" to have a reason to act in the egregious manners that they do. Oh, I didn't mention the $300,000.00 tax filing for 2009...money makes people do odd things.

Back to the Brown Shirts and FOS. Both groups represent terror, and are ultra-zealous in their cause-celeb, although misguided by false and fabricated information. Bothe groups are willing to commit atrocious acts to perpetuate the 'good'. The scary part to me is:

Both groups drew from an insuspecting public for recruit's, and fed them lie's to keep the illusion alive.

DON"T FALL FOR THE FOS, aalam and her cronies are only out for the money themselves!

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LaJollaDiver Feb. 25, 2010 @ 8:19 a.m.

This is an interesting story.

The odd thing is you make it sound like the police would have done something to John Leek had he been there when they arrived. The truth is that they would have told Marjane to stop harassing John, as they have told her multiple times.

Marjane and her fellow animal activists have had the police called on them dozens of times. I have personally been harrassed by her and her thugs until I felt physically endangered multiple times. I have seen her directing one of her "nightwatch" people to physically attack a fellow beachgoer.

In short, Marjane in not some harmless ecofriendly person, rather an ecoterrorist who attacks people for simply wanting to use an open, public beach. She uses threats and intimidation to keep people from going on said public beach. Worse yet is the San Diego City atty and City council have been told this is occuring, shown video evidence, and still continue to do nothing about it. Thankfully, the SDPD has been doing a good job protecting beachgoers from Marjane and her violent friends.

I don't know if it's more scary or pathetic that the San Diego City Council knowingly continues to allow citizens and tourists to be harrassed, intimidated and even physically assulted by violent animal rights activists.

At some point, the city will become liable for passivly condoning the actions of Marjane and her violent friends, and the ensuing lawsuit will make the million dollars needed to clean up the Children's pool seem like pocket change.

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SDNative7 Feb. 25, 2010 @ 8:29 a.m.

The FOS are nothing more than an organized group of bullies. I have seen multiple accounts of harrassment and thugery at the Children's Pool. Ohhh, did I mention the CHILDREN's POOL, built and donated for the CHILDREN of San Diego. I personally have been singled out and shouted at for diving that area. The FOS are exploiting the seal haulout for their own gain. Filming people, verbally harassing them, and posting them on YouTube is in no way acceptable. None the less, the SD City Council supports them. Not only do they support them but after repeated police reports, the City Council condones their behavior because of their refusal to act. What's wrong with Seal Rock? The seals survived just fine by using NATURAL haul outs instead of a man made haul out.

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loverofmotherocean Feb. 25, 2010 @ 8:39 a.m.

Thank you for protecting our access to the beach. My reasoning for the removal of the seals is much more selfish, it is self preservation. Great Whites eat seals and they have been documented off our coast. I do not want to attract further attention from the greatest predator in the sea. We must all remember Dr. David Martin who lost his life to a great white in 2008 swimming off the San Diego shore. It is a public safety concern nurturing this seal colony in one of the most visited beaches in California. I understand that the seals bring in tourism dollars, but contemplate the effect of another shark attack death off our coast? Our Beaches are at the core of our tourism industry, and we should not taint our image for a few seals. How would it look I the city was aware of the safety concerns, and took steps to increase the public hazard? Thank you

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rhyne Feb. 25, 2010 @ 9:02 a.m.

It's a breath of fresh air to see an article written that shows the true climate of what is happening down at the children's pool. Thank goodness for people like John Leek who are taking a stand for our legal rights. This "Friends of Seals" organization is taking our city for a joyride and it's a downright disgusting example of political manipulation and a waste of much needed city funds. I hope we see more stories like this and that someday real soon the authorities will be able to remove these sidewalk pedaling eco-thugs from our public beach. I feel bad for the tourists/people they manipulate into thinking they are actually saving any seals. What a joke!

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CA_Diver Feb. 25, 2010 @ 1:50 p.m.

I'm not one to speak out against items of free speech. I think it is an essential and a God-given right to be able to speak your mind and stand for your values. However, when your actions begin to affect the lives of others and purposefully bent on demeaning and destroying their reputation then it becomes completely wrong and in my mind illegal verbal abuse especially when the individual's actions are completely legal and innocent. The LJ FOS are not good natured, rational people - they're clearly eco thugs bent on enforcing self-proposed laws based on their own ideals.

As a avid diver, I enjoy the company of seals during my dives. They are playful animals that are unphased by my presence. However, according to the FOS, my simple presence annoys the seals and detrimental to their health and well-being. Not that I am a seal doctor or psychologist, but I don't feel that my being there has any affect at all besides the simple sight of humans walking past and some awkward warm-blooded animal in the water to gaze at. All said, I don't go out of my way to attract the attention of any seals - I walk past quietly as far as possible from where they are basking on the beach and swim around them as much as possible when in the water. If the beach is too crowded by seals to enter, which has happened, I'll move to another nearby beach as long as conditions allow me to. Yet, when trying to enter the water at the Children's Pool, which offers a great and protected dive entry point because of the sea wall that was constructed for this exact purpose, my fellow divers and I have been yelled at and verbally abused over bull-horns, called a seal killers, filmed, blinded by flashlights directly to the eye, and blocked from entering the beach - just to name a few of my experiences with the "Friends" of the Seals. Please tell me that yelling over a bull horn isn't bothering the seals or chasing me down on to the beach chastise me isn't annoying the seals. Clearly these a just a bunch of irrational fanatics, who make huge profits off the easily convinced public who throw money at them with the belief that it will actually go to benefiting the seals.

I applaud people like John Leek who stand up for what is right and completely legal when faced by an irrational group of eco-thugs, who use the seals a face for their own selfish motivations.

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qpodad Feb. 26, 2010 @ 1:07 p.m.

I have no dog (or seal) in this fight, but let us all be clear: the sandy area where the seal rookery is is NOT a natural environment. All of the areas in La Jolla with limestone shore and rough surf are natural to the area. The spot immediately to the south of the wall is referred to as "the washing machine" by divers, and during calm days, divers with metal detectors can find lots of gear lost by divers who get caught in the washing machine. The children's pool is attractive to seals for the same reasons it was attractive to parents: it is the calmest entry point with sand for miles on either side because of the sea wall. The wall was built because, as many locals know, there is no protected (i.e. waveless) body of water that La Jolla children could use before the wall was built in 1931. The wall was actually built right on top of several rocks that used to be called "Seal Rock Point", and the wall blocks the bulk of the wave energy that used to pound this area. The cove used contain more water surface area and much less sand, but since winter storms no longer send waves over the old "Seal Rock Point", sand had filled in much of the cove. Seals are quite smart and great hunters; they have and will continue to thrive in local waters, even if they can't use Casa Cove as a rookery. I am thinking that some of the pro-seal crowd must not realize these are impressively well-adapted marine mammals, not pets, who managed to go 70+ years without using Casa cove as a rookery, and would be fine if Casa Cove was returned to the intended use as a beach for children, as it was for the first 70 years after the wall was built. That said, some anti-seal people seem like giant d-bags who are in this debate primarily to ridicule their opponents, and could care less about the historic use of the beach by the children of La Jolla.

Maybe the debate will only end when the sea wall crumbles. Only then will no mammal, biped or pinniped, want to use that area because the sand will shrink and the waves will be too much for most people to handle. The city would be too broke to fix it and could never get a permit from the Coastal Commission in any case.

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