Animal rights protesters arrested

By Michael McFall

Three animal rights protesters were arrested April 20 for picketing outside a U researcher’s home–a violation of a new Salt Lake City ordinance requiring demonstrators to stay 100 feet away from a private residence. This is the first violation of the new ordinance.
The protesters were released from jail the same day but plan to file a lawsuit against the Salt Lake City Police Department for violating their First Amendment right to peacefully protest. Attorney Brian Barnard will represent the protesters in their case.
One protester requested arrest instead of a citation, said Jeremy Beckham, founder of Utah Primate Freedom, an organization at the protest.
“He basically said if you’re serious about taking away my First Amendment rights, I’m not going to go down quietly,” Beckham said.
The arrested protesters were three of 16 individuals picketing around the home of a researcher from the U’s Moran Eye Center, whose research includes testing monkeys to study how the brain receives stimuli from the eye.
When police responded to a call at 1 a.m., masked protesters were holding a silent vigil, according to a police log entry. Officers warned the protesters to remain 100 feet away from the researcher’s home.
After receiving several more calls, police returned to the scene at 8 p.m. to find 16 activists protesting with banners and flags. Twelve protestors received citations and three were arrested.
Animal rights protesters organized the vigil after a conference. Following a question and answer meeting at the conclusion of the conference, some attendees asked if anyone would want to organize a protest, Beckham said. Several hours later, the arrests were made.
Sections of the conference were focused on the legal rights of activists, which included information about the new city ordinance. The protesters knew about the law, Beckham said, and stayed within its boundaries.
“They’re still allowed to parade and march?which is what they were doing when (the police) showed up,” Beckham said.Detective Rick Walls, a spokesman for the police department, said that he is confident that the officers at the scene arrested and cited the protesters because they were in violation of the ordinance’s exact criteria.
Beckham said that while Utah Primate Freedom did not directly organize the protest on April 20, activists are encouraged to picket researchers’ homes because animal suffering does not end after researchers clock out from work at the end of the day.
The U has lobbied for measures to protect its researchers, including the new ordinance securing their residential privacy and advocates legislation protecting the names and personal information of any animal testing researchers, U spokeswoman Coralie Alder said.
The Utah State Legislature passed this bill during the 2008 legislative session, altering the Government Records and Access Management Act to conceal names, personal addresses and phone numbers of U researchers.
“It is our priority to protect our researchers from intimidation and harassment, especially in their homes and for their neighbors,” Alder said.
Protesters are welcome to demonstrate on campus, but the U does not condone picketing at the homes of researchers, she said.
A hearing date for the protesters has not been decided yet.
“I can’t speculate whether these arrests would stop (the protesters) or not,” Alder said. “They are very committed to their cause, but so are we.”
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