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The emergency situations on the hit series “9-1-1” can be so shocking, it’s hard to believe they could happen in real life. But sometimes, they really do have roots in reality.
The Season 3 episode of “9-1-1” titled “Rage” sees things get personal for members of the 118 as the stress of a legal fight with one of their own leads to a heated exchange at a factory incident plucked directly from the headlines of real-life.
The episode opens with the 118 testifying in arbitration for a wrongful termination lawsuit brought on by Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark). Things devolve into a series of low blows when Buck’s attorney starts hammering Captain Bobby Nash (Peter Krause) about his decision to pull Buck from his duties as well as his past alcohol relapse. Bobby’s life gets more difficult when his wife’s ex and her kids are pulled over by a pair of cops whose intentions and actions when dealing with a Black family are clearly suspect.
As a result, Bobby is in no mood to be trifled with when responding to a call at a local slaughterhouse where a handful of activists have used bike locks to secure their necks to a conveyor belt meant to send ducks to their doom. When the conveyor belt somehow turns on, one young activist is nearly strangled to death because, in an act of dedication and stupidity, he had swallowed the key to his lock.
When Howie Han (Kenneth Choi) frees the boy, the manager of the duck farm reveals that he could have shut the machine off the whole time, prompting Bobby to slam him up against a wall in a fit of rage. While the 9-1-1 call certainly provided some intense, character-driven drama in the episode, the moment was actually based directly on a real-life incident that shook out in a similar way at a duck farm in Sonoma County, California.
In this case, series creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear practically did a full recreation of a graphic video from animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere that went viral in 2019, right down to the group’s outfits. Two to three hundred protestors showed up to the Reichardt Duck Farm in an organized effort to rescue ducks and expose what they claimed were animal cruelty practices, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office,
The farm had been raided by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office roughly five years prior on suspicion of animal cruelty violations, but no evidence was found at the time.
A handful of the protesters in the video did exactly what the characters on “9-1-1” did: bike locked themselves to a conveyor belt. It’s unclear from the video how it happened, but the machine began to move, causing one of the activists to get wedged between a pole as his bike lock pulled tighter and tighter on his neck. After a few moments of intense panic, his frantic cohorts managed to free him and the man was able to walk away with only minor injuries, ABC7News reported.
Other members of Direct Action Everywhere, many of whom were holding ducks they’d liberated from the property, moved to the front gate and chained themselves together to prevent anyone from coming or going. In the end, it wasn’t firefighters who responded to the scene like in the show, but police officers. 80 people were arrested on “a variety of criminal offenses, according to the DA.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt at the real-life protest, unlike on the show where the young man was taken to the hospital because… well, swallowing a metal key is inadvisable. In addition, the actions of Direct Action Everywhere resulted in the removal of 30 ducklings, The Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
Four episodes of "9-1-1" air on USA Network back-to-back on Thursdays starting at 7/6c.
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