The thousands of people who gathered in Portland, Oregon, on June 2 to protest the death of George Floyd and racial injustice welcomed an unusual ally: Caesar the No Drama Llama.
“We wanted to show solidarity with everybody up there,” his handler, Larry McCool, told TODAY. “He just brings love and spreads the love.”
While McCool, 66, and Caesar marched around 3 miles with protesters, hundreds of people stopped to hug the 5-year-old “llamactivist” or take selfies. Caesar loves meeting new friends, according to McCool.
“He will just walk up to people and lean right against them or snuggle with them or ask them for attention,” he said. “He just wants somebody to hug him.”
McCool said Caesar (pronounced "SAY-zar") has a temperament as friendly as a dog, and that it’s a myth that all llamas spit.
“They have to be angry, mad, hurt or stressed before a llama will spit, so Caesar has no reason to,” he said. “He’s there for a good time.”
Caesar is one of 15 llamas who reside at McCool’s Mystic Llama Farm in Jefferson, Oregon, about 75 miles south of Portland. McCool said it was important to him to make the 150-mile round-trip drive with Caesar to lend support and hopefully a calming presence for both protesters and police officers.
“When we got invited to the event (by a friend), I think the intent was to kind of take the edge off,” he said. “Nobody’s going to tear-gas a llama, right?”
McCool and Caesar plan to march again at a protest this Saturday in Salem, Oregon.
Caesar has joined many marches and protests for a variety of groups promoting civil rights and equality, and appears at a variety of charity events.
The llama typically visits about 20 schools and nursing homes each month. During the coronavirus pandemic, he’s been offering free “walkabouts” around the outside of care facilities for seniors.
“The staff inside gets the residents ready, and then they’ll be waiting for us at the window,” McCool said. “When their eyes light up and the excitement and the thrill that they get, it’s really, really worth it because they are shut in right now.”
Caesar used to visit elementary schools to offer hugs to students or the chance to read a book to a llama but now visits virtual classrooms around the country via Zoom. Teachers can request a free visit on Caesar’s Facebook page.
“It is cool because I get to see the kids, and all of a sudden a llama pops up in their classroom,” he said. “It’s fun to see the giggles and the laughter of the kids. The teacher knows about it, but it’s kind of a nice surprise for the kids.”
McCool said he’s grateful for the chance to help Caesar highlight important issues and spread llama love.
“I just want people to know that the purpose of Caesar the No Drama Llama is to draw the good intent out of people,” he said. “He’s here for good. I just feel really fortunate that I am the one that gets to provide him to the public and share the love that he gives to people. He’s just an amazing animal.”