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article imageHundreds protest over Michael Vick at Steelers home game Special

By Stephen Pope     Sep 3, 2015 in Sports
Pittsburgh - More than 300 animal rights protesters turned out Thursday before the start of the Pittsburgh Steelers last preseason game calling for Michael Vick's removal from the team.
The group gathered across from Heinz Field Thursday before the start of the game against the Carolina Panthers calling for Michael Vick's firing, with most saying the Steelers should not have signed Vick, who pleaded guilty for his role in a multi-state dog-fighting enterprise.
"It's hypocritical, Pittsburgh Steeler fans were the most vocal about the Philadelphia Eagles picking [Vick] up, and here they are supporting him," said Pittsburgh resident Sherri Suppa, who turned out for the anti-Vick Rally. Vick played with the Eagles from 2009-2013 as a backup quarterback.
One of the organizers for tonight's rally, Tara Vybiral said, "It's not too late to get rid of Michael Vick. We implore the Rooney's and the NFL to stop playing him." Vybiral, who started a Facebook page, "Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick" said she has received hundreds of messages from across the world from supporters who said they will be lighting a candle tonight in support of the rally.
Amy Harrison, another organizer for Thursday's rally said, "He's done only what he has been ordered to do. We feel he should not be in a position of being a role model."
Harrison, who made the seven-hour drive to New York City to rescue "XO" a Pitt Bull five hours before he was scheduled to be put to sleep, said over 1,400 people had initially signed up saying they were planning to attend tonight's event. Harrison even devoted a Facebook page to her Pitt Bull
Former MMA fighter Gordon Shell who came from Detroit to join the rally said he doesn't think that Vic should be fired, but that he should do more and give more to pro-animal causes and much of what Vick has done has been court ordered.
Shell was referring to what the majority of Vick supporters have been saying lately, that is, while Vick has supported pro-animal causes since his 2007 guilty plea for conspiracy to engage in dog-fighting, the majority of what Vick has done has been court-ordered.
According to the August 24, 2007 plea agreement Vick was ordered to make restitution for all damages and injuries that resulted from the dog-fighting ring, and help provide for the care of the 54 dogs that were seized.
Anti-Vick protesters hold signs across from Heinz Field before the start of the Pittsburgh Steelers ...
Anti-Vick protesters hold signs across from Heinz Field before the start of the Pittsburgh Steelers last preseason game. Steve Pope/Digital Journal
Among those who were outspoken and rallied against Vick was Libby Serafini, a Master dog groomer at Paw Spa Resort in Pittsburgh who said that Vick, "Hasn't paid enough for the pain and suffering he has caused the dogs that were injured during the dog fights."
However, not all Steeler fans Thursday night were quick to judge Vick for his felony conviction. James Parrish, who walked past the protesters on his way into Heinz Field, said, "I forgive him for what he has done. He isn't the same Michael Vick that he was several years ago."
Countless fans on their way into the stadium could be seen stopping, honking their horns and thanking members of the group for rallying against Vick, while other fans were heard saying that Vick should be forgiven.
Vybrial said that she hopes tonight's rally also brings awareness to pending legislation that would stiffen the penalties for animal cruelty and make it crime to tie animals on a line outside their homes, which she said most people do, who are engaged in dog fighting.
Currently there are three pieces of legislation pending in Pennsylvania; House Bill 113, also known as "Angel's Law," would make it a misdemeanor, up from a summary offense, for first time offenders, while repeat offenders would face felony charges. Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 1469 would make it a crime for a person to tie their animals on a line for prolonged periods of time.
Rally organizers say they are unsure if they will plan any future rallies on the days when the Steelers play at home.
The Panthers ended up handing the Steelers their fourth loss in a row 23-6.
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