Dr. Walter Palmer ignored the bellow of a protester as the Twin Cities dentist returned to work Tuesday, hoping to leave behind his global notoriety as the hunter who killed a beloved African lion.
Palmer’s revelation Sunday night that he was resuming practice at his Bloomington office set animal welfare activists scrambling to make their presence known to the veteran hunter. The 10 protesters who appeared outside River Bluff Dental were far outnumbered by news media, while police and security guards ensured Palmer could resume his practice for the first time in six weeks.
A woman shouted “extradite Palmer” as he walked across a gas station parking lot, crossed the street and made his way toward the glass entryway, which was plastered with messages on strips of paper: “May you never hunt again” and “Justice for Cecil” were two of them. Dressed in a black polo shirt and dark pants, a stoic Palmer said nothing and entered the River Bluff Dental office as a private security man held the door for him.
Then he flashed a large smile to his staff, who greeted him with smiles of their own.
Palmer, 55, had been away from his practice and out of public view since late July, when a London newspaper revealed that the Eden Prairie resident killed Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow in what Zimbabwe authorities have alleged was an illegal hunt earlier in the summer.
Authorities in Zimbabwe have filed criminal counts against both the guide and the landowner, but Palmer has not been charged and the wife of President Robert Mugabe said last month she doesn’t hold Palmer responsible. Palmer has maintained that the hunt was legal, and that he had no idea the lion he felled was a long-studied and well-known animal.
Nevertheless, Palmer’s dental office became a focal point for angry protests, and temporarily shut down amid the commotion. Critics also took to social media. Some condemned big-game trophy hunting while others tapped out not-so-veiled threats against Palmer and his family. The heated online entries forced the practice to shut down its social media and business Web pages.
In an interview Sunday, Palmer said that despite threats, it was time for him to get back to work and resume his life as normally as possible.
A neighbor argued with protesters Tuesday morning that it’s time to leave Palmer alone.
“They want the guy dead; they want his business dead,” Stephanie Michaelis said to the dentist’s assembled critics. “They want him extradited and hung. I’ve seen the signs; I’ve seen the rhetoric. I’m tired of it. … What do we have to do with a lion in Africa?”
Brenda Spencer, of Rosemount, countered that it was Palmer “who created the firestorm. Palmer and other trophy hunters have called themselves conservationists, which is far from the truth. … The world’s eyes are watching.”
Cathy Pierce, of East Bethel, brought her 3-year-old Alaskan malamute, Shanook, along, explaining that she was there “to stick up for animals that can’t stick up for themselves. We need more people to realize our animals are going extinct. … If I was a patient of his, I would be gone.”
Dallas Rising, of Minneapolis, executive director of the Animal Rights Coalition, held a sign Tuesday outside the dentist’s office that read “#ExtraditePalmer” although she doesn’t see that as likely. “If you have enough money and are a citizen of the United States, you can get away with anything and have absolutely no consequences,” Rising said.