Activists locked together in a “sleeping dragon” maneuver at Berkeley’s Golden Gate Fields Thursday afternoon. (Photo courtesy Direct Action Everywhere)

Vaccinations were occurring Friday in Berkeley adjacent to Golden Gate Fields following a cancellation Thursday afternoon, when animal rights activists forced the racetrack to close temporarily, city officials said.

About 200 people Thursday failed to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the action by the activists, Berkeley city spokesman Matthai Chakko said. The vaccination site on Buchanan Street was closed for about three hours before reopening about 3 p.m.

Over the next couple of days, the site’s medical provider Curative will be getting in touch with the people prevented from getting the vaccine on Thursday.

Four protesters lay down on the track at Golden Gate Fields Thursday afternoon to stop racing and to demand the track shut down permanently, according to Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group.

At least five horses have died at the track so far this year; 27 horses died at the track last year.

The four protesters were on the track at 1100 Eastshore Highway about 12:20 p.m., connected by PVC pipes in a move the activists call a sleeping dragon. Outside the track, people chanted and demonstrated with banners.

“It’s not entertainment, they chanted. “It’s violence,” they said of horseracing.

The activists were on the track locked together until about 7:15 p.m. Horseracing started again at 7:27 p.m. and six races were run, track officials said. The first race of the day was canceled.

“We respectfully suggest to the activists that there is a better way to have this conversation and air their concerns,” track officials said on Twitter Thursday. “We welcome the opportunity to have this discussion in the appropriate format.”

The four activists were arrested without incident and cited and released for trespassing, Albany police said Friday.

They were prepared to be arrested, Cassie King of DxE said. Police identified the four as 43-year-old Omar Aicardi of Modesto, 28-year-old Rachel Ziegler of Oakland, 32-year-old Rocky Chau of San Francisco, and 29-year-old James Crom of Oakland.

Deaths of horses gained more public attention when 23 died over three months in early 2019 at Santa Anita Park in Southern California.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.