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Protest planned at Elitch Gardens

2:21 PM, Jun 18, 2007   |    comments
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The group organized by a few Colorado mothers who saw the posting will stage what they call a "peaceful nurse-in" at the front gates of Elitch Gardens located at 2000 Elitch Circle in Denver, Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

The "nurse-in" comes on the heals of a flurry of Internet activity prompted by a chat room posting by Kristin Skrydlak-simlai of South Dakota. In the posting, the mother of three claims she was harassed by Elitch employees earlier this week while she was breastfeeding her 5-month-old baby.

Skrydlak-simlai's original posting says in part:
"I repeatedly stated colorado breastfeeding law and informed them that I was not going anywhere or covering up (he hates being covered up), could they please stop harassing me and let me feed my child. He stated they would kick me out of the park for this. I stated that I paid for the tickets and was not going anywhere as I was not breaking any posted park rules."

The posting was written in a chat room on the parenting Web site, mothering.com. Since it was posted in the early morning of June 14, more than 100 people have posted responses on the same site. 9NEWS has received several emails forwarding the posting asking for the media to do a story on the issue.

Elitch Gardens issued an apology Thursday in response to media inquiries into the matter. Marketing Coordinator and Elitch Gardens Spokesperson Megan Barber said the park allows breastfeeding as is required under Colorado law, but they ask breastfeeding mother's to respect the comfort level of other guests of the park. (Click here to read complete statement)

"It's a very important issue for mothers the way they are treated in the public eye when they are nursing," said organizer of the "nurse-in" Tirzha Zabarauskas of Colorado.

"I am sure being at a water park there were other women in bikinis who were not asked to cover themselves up or leave the park," Zabarauskas told 9NEWS in an interview on Friday afternoon.

Zabarauskas and other mothers are organizing the "nurse-in" by posting information in breastfeeding chat rooms, on Yahoo community forums, Craigslist.org, the original site of the posting  and through word of mouth.

Zabarauskas wants Colorado's breastfeeding law to be respected.

The Colorado Legislature passed a breastfeeding law in 2004 that states, "A mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be." The law does not place any restrictions on when, where or how breastfeeding in public should be conducted.

In a statement, Elitch Gardens states they allow breastfeeding in the park but the statement continues with:
"Our concern was not that she was breastfeeding her child, but that she was exposed while doing so making several guests uncomfortable enough to bring it to the park management's attention."

Spokesperson Megan Barber told 9NEWS that park employee's did not ask Skrydlak-simlai to leave the park and the police officers working at the park did not threaten to arrest her as she claims in her Internet posting. She said employee's just, "suggested alternative options" for breastfeeding.

Skrydlak-simlai in her posting said park employees asked her to cover the baby's head. She said her son gets irritated when she covers his head. 9NEWS has tried unsuccessfully to reach Skrydlak-simlai for comment. Her mother told 9NEWS her daughter is on vacation in Colorado and in and out of cell service.

"I wouldn't want to have a blanket over my head when I was eating", Zabarauskas added in reference to the Elitch Gardens employee asking the  mother to cover her baby's head while breastfeeding.

If you would like more information about the "nurse-in" you can contact Zabarauskas by emailing tirzhaz@yahoo.com.

According to Colorado law, a mother may breast feed in any place she has a right to be. Additionally, exposing a breast is not considered indecent exposure.

"The law does not require a mother to sneak off into some corner to feed a child. Anywhere she has a right to be, she has a right to breastfeed," said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson. "Elitch's personnel and the Denver Police had no business asking her to cover up. The law permitted just what she was doing, even if it made some people uncomfortable."

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