"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.