Pretenders singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde was arrested around 2 p.m. Thursday in New York in New York and charged with criminal mischief in the first degree during a protest at a Gap clothing store, police said.
Gap spokesperson Alan Marks said Hynde and three other supporters of the animals-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals destroyed about $1,000 worth of merchandise and property, tearing clothes off mannequins and ripping apart leather jackets.
The three others were arrested with Hynde, according to police spokesperson Cheryl Cox, who did not have details about the incident. The four were among a group of about 20 demonstrators who claimed the Gap uses leather from cows slaughtered illegally in India, where many people consider the animal sacred.
Hynde told reporters that Gap leather jackets featuring "Made in India" labels probably came from such circumstances.
"India does not import leather, and it is the largest exporter of leather in the world," Hynde is quoted as saying by Reuters. "So it seems highly unlikely that the Gap buys its leather from America, where the slaughterhouse practices are considered humane and legal, and send the leather to India, stitch up the jacket and send it back to America."
Marks said that the labels do not mean the leather was from India,and that the company's finished goods come from apparel factories. He said the Gap has been looking into how the factories get their material and has determined that less than 10 percent of the leather used for the company's products comes from India.
"I think it would be inaccurate to assume that [the leather obtained in India] is from the black market," he said. The company said it is continuing its investigation.
Marks said he met with Hynde and other PETA supporters in San Francisco about two weeks ago, when the organization launched an anti-leather campaign. He called Thursday's incident a publicity stunt and said it was a variation of similar demonstrations that have occurred in other cities.
He said Hynde entered the store on Sixth Avenue, carrying a leather jacket. Hynde allegedly said that she wanted to return the jacket because it was purchased on the black market in India. The Gap does not have stores in India, Marks said.
As the store manager was executing the refund, two or three more PETA supporters and several people with cameras entered the store, Marks said, adding that he was not sure if the people with cameras were members of the media. The manager asked the camera-toting people to leave, citing a store policy that restricts photography and filming in the store. They refused, and Hynde and three of the supporters allegedly began to destroy merchandise.
Marks said the store repeatedly asked the group to leave but that they refused. He said he did not know how police were notified, saying that the store did not call authorities.
It was not clear if Hynde was still in custody at press time. The Pretenders have a show scheduled at the city's Roseland Ballroom on Friday (March 10).
The Pretenders, whose songs include "Middle of the Road," are nearing the end of their U.S tour, with only two more dates remaining after Friday's show. The group's latest, Viva el Amor! (1999), is its first studio collection since 1994's Last of the Independents. The disc features such guitar-driven pop songs as "Who's Who" (RealAudio excerpt).