Science + Technology

Judge expands order to block harassment of researchers

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UCLA has won a preliminary injunction against extremists involved in a campaign of harassment directed at faculty and administrators who conduct or oversee research involving laboratory animals. The harassment has included attempted firebombings at private residences, vandalism and multiple threats of violence.

The injunction, issued April 22 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry B. Friedman after a hearing in a Santa Monica courtroom, extends and expands a temporary restraining order granted in February.
 
The injunction prohibits three groups and five individuals from coming within 50 feet of the residences of UCLA personnel involved in animal research during any demonstration; at night, this restriction increases to 150 feet. It also prohibits the posting of personal information about UCLA personnel on Web sites maintained by the groups and individuals. The order was expanded to include those acting in concert with the already named individuals and groups. Those failing to comply with the injunction are subject to contempt of court charges. 
 
The trial on a permanent injunction is scheduled to begin Feb. 17, 2009.

"This preliminary injunction is an important step in UCLA's ongoing efforts to protect researchers from extremists who have engaged in unlawful tactics to advance their beliefs, and we intend to vigorously enforce it while pursuing a permanent injunction," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "UCLA holds free speech sacrosanct, but the use of Molotov cocktails, vandalism and threats is not protected speech. We remain committed to the humane use of animals in research that is heavily regulated and critical to the development of lifesaving treatments for a wide variety of ailments."

On three occasions since June 2006, Molotov cocktail-type devices have been left near the homes of UCLA faculty who conduct or oversee research involving animals. In addition, their homes have been vandalized and they have received threatening phone calls, e-mails and, on at least one occasion, a package rigged with razor blades. Extremists have appeared at residences in the middle of the night, worn ski masks to conceal their identity and used megaphones to shout threats, obscenities and epithets.

Those named in the university's complaint are groups known as the UCLA Primate Freedom Project, the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade and five individuals believed to affiliate with these groups: Linda Faith Greene, Hillary Roney, Kevin Olliff, Ramin Saber and Tim Rusmisel. Court papers filed by UCLA allege that these groups and individuals have promoted and facilitated unlawful activities directed against UCLA faculty and administrators. On March 9, two individuals named in the restraining order were arrested by UCLA police on suspicion of violating the requirement that they stay at least 50 feet away from a residence during a demonstration. Several of the individuals have been the subjects of temporary restraining orders and injunctions prohibiting them from harassing employees affiliated with the City of Los Angeles and private institutions.

The FBI has identified the Animal Liberation Front, which publicly advocates violence to advance its aim of discontinuing the use of lab animals in research, as a top domestic terrorism threat. The Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade have in some cases claimed responsibility for unlawful activities directed against UCLA personnel and their homes. The Animal Liberation Front press office regularly posts anonymous communiqus about the Animal Liberation Brigade's unlawful activities. Before the restraining order mandated changes, the UCLA Primate Freedom Project maintained a Web site displaying the photographs, home addresses and phone numbers of targeted UCLA personnel.

The injunction prohibits the defendants from committing violence or threatening violence against UCLA personnel who conduct or support animal research; vandalizing or threatening to vandalize their property; violating local noise ordinances; coming within 50 feet of animal research personnel during a demonstration; and posting on Web sites — or otherwise disseminating — personal information about the UCLA personnel. It requires the defendants to post information on their Web sites indicating that the restraining order prohibits certain activities relating to the UCLA personnel. The injunction also prohibits the defendants from directing any of the prohibited activities at animal research personnel affiliated with other University of California campuses. Unknown extremists opposed to the use of laboratory animals in research have targeted personnel affiliated with other UC campuses in Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

The 10-campus University of California system has sponsored legislation by state Assemblyman Gene Mullin that would enhance the ability of law enforcement to protect from harassment those engaged in research involving laboratory animals. The legislation, known as the California Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AB 2296), is being considered by the Legislature.

UCLA is cooperating with the FBI and the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force in criminal investigations of the attempted firebombings and other activities directed at UCLA personnel. UCLA and various law enforcement units are offering a combined $170,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the attempted firebombings. Persons with information are encouraged to contact the FBI at (310) 477-6565.

In 1989, UCLA filed suit against different animal research opponents and received a permanent injunction after extremists held unruly demonstrations outside the homes of researchers.

Representing UCLA and the University of California Regents — who oversee all UC campuses and are the plaintiff of record — are John C. Hueston and Wendy A. Sugg of the law firm Irell & Manella.

The original complaint filed by UCLA on Feb. 21, 2008, is available at: www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/document/Regents_Complaint.PDF.

The temporary restraining order, originally signed on Feb. 22, 2008, was amended on Feb. 25, 2008. It is available at: www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/document/Signed_TRO.pdf.

The text of the California Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AB 2296) is available at:
www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_2251-2300/ab_2296_bill_20080401_amended_asm_v98.pdf
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