The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Salt Lake City police arrested four people and cited 12 others who were protesting animal research. The incident took place in the 2700 East block of Eagle Way on Sunday April 27th at an address published by animal rights activists as the home of two University of Utah brain researchers.
Police were called to the address about 1 A.M. early Sunday morning and said they found 10 people, most of whom were wearing bandanas on their face. These are the same tactics used by Anti-Racist Action (ARA) scum. The group said they were holding a silent candlelight vigil and the bandanas were for the "faceless victims" of animal research. Although no arrests or citations were made at the time, when police returned about 8 P.M. Sunday evening and found 16 protesters, they cited 12 people for picketing in a residential area. The other four were arrested and taken to jail on suspicion of the picketing, providing false information to police and outstanding warrants. No injuries or damage was reported.
The Salt Lake Tribune did not report whether or not these protesters were part of an organized group or the name of the group. However, previous picketing at the residences of University of Utah researchers has been promoted and enacted by the Utah Primate Freedom group, which, according to a October 2006 Deseret News editorial, has been engaging in this type of activity for a considerable period of time, although when they began operation in 2003, they first started off with more conventional tactics. Here was the News' objection:
Although Utah Primate Freedom's protests have been largely incident free — save an assault against an animal rights activist during a recent demonstration outside the Salt Palace — the organization's Web site plainly states that members intend to return to the researchers' homes "time and time again."
These demonstrations may be legal, but they are highly intrusive. Seemingly, animal rights organizations' energies would be better spent exploring established review processes and availing themselves to more traditional forms of redress such as protests in public forums, writing letters to the editor, conducting press conferences and perhaps legal challenges, if warranted.
Protesting at the private residences of men and women who have legitimate research interests does not lend credibility to one's cause. It tends to silence what ultimately could be productive exchanges and it denigrates men and women whom society should rightly consider as heroes, not villains. The U. should exploit all available resources to ensure that their research can continue in a safe and supportive environment.
And the Deseret News hits the nail on the head. If Utah Primate Freedom thinks they will win people over to their cause by these tactics, they're nuts. It doesn't matter how orderly they behave; picketing a residence is viewed as invading a neighborhood and has a chilling effect on privacy, public safety, and public order. The residents will likely be pissed off. How do you win support for your cause by pissing people off? And on January 12th, 2007, the University of Utah's student-run Daily Utah Chronicle also editorially condemned the Utah Primate Freedom activists, characterizing them as having "monkey brains".
Utah Primate Freedom justifies residential picketing on their website, as follows:
Activists use home demonstrations to send the message that individuals ought to be held personally morally accountable for the actions they participate in at the workplace. Historically, too many atrocities have been carried out by individuals who have told themselves that they are "just doing what they are told" or "just doing their job." This shifting of moral responsibility onto a faceless bureaucratic institution has resulted in great suffering.
They also cite precedences used by activists in other areas, such as Father James Groppi, as additional justification. It was because of this moral arrogance and disregard for public order and safety that the Salt Lake City Council eventually passed an ordinance by a 5-2 vote banning "targeted residential picketing" within 100 feet of the "targeted residence" and classifying such an act as a class B misdemeanor. This ordinance was passed in response to the campaign against primate vivisection at the University of Utah at the prodding of the University. Apparently the ordinance hasn't fazed this group; they continue to target private homes of researchers, and have prominently plastered the home address of their next target, Dr. Robert Lane, on their website.
Utah Primate Freedom also has documented ties with the terrorist Animal Liberation Front. Associated Content reports that on April 26th, 2007, a four-person contingent of activists attacked the Riverton home of University of Utah researcher Audie Leventhal while he wasn't there, and then bragged on their website about inflicting thousands of dollars damage. So apparently some members of UPF are also members of the Animal Liberation Front.
Restricted-picketing ordinances elsewhere have been upheld by federal courts. In October 2006, the First Amendment Center reported that a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Klein v. San Diego County case, unanimously affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a challenge to San Diego County's restriction. The protesters had claimed that San Diego County's 2002 law, which bars “picketing activity that is targeted at and within three hundred (300) feet of a residential dwelling in the unincorporated areas” of the county, violated the First Amendment.
Constitutional freedoms are NOT absolute and unconditional; they are contingent upon their responsible exercise. That's why we deprive people of life, liberty, and property for breaking the law. That's why we hold people accountable for libel and incendiary speech. We have developed time-tested and court-approved restrictions upon the misuse and abuse of liberty. A residential neighborhood has a reasonable expectation of greater privacy and security than a commercial neighborhood, based upon a philosophical extension of the "castle" doctrine. Picketing a KFC restaurant in American Fork is O.K.; picketing the home of a university researcher is not O.K.