SM COURTHOUSE — A Santa Monica judge issued a permanent injunction that aims to protect UCLA researchers from threats and other forms of harassment by aggressive animal rights activists opposed to the use of animals in research.
Superior Court Judge Terry B. Friedman ruled in UCLA’s favor on Wednesday, ordering that when demonstrating, four defendants and three organizations respect a 50-foot buffer surrounding the residences of UCLA personnel involved in animal research, and a 150-foot buffer after dark.
Friedman’s ruling comes in response to a series of complaints from UCLA researchers, citing that activists “engaged in harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with business relations,” according to a university statement.
In the statement, UCLA officials listed five individuals to whom the terms of the injunction applied: Linda Faith Greene, Hillary Roney, Kevin Olliff, Ramin Saber and Tim Rusmisel.
But Christine Garcia, the attorney representing Greene, Roney, Olliff and Rusmisel said on Thursday that Saber did not appear and had not been represented in court, stating that she was unsure as to whether or not he had been included in the charges at all.
Garcia spoke on behalf of her clients, explaining that the defendants elected to move for dismissal of their challenge of the injunction after they were slapped with discovery sanctions exceeding $4,000 collectively when the group failed to respond to 24 of the 524 questions asked by the plaintiff’s attorneys in the discovery phase of the proceedings.
“The plaintiffs were no less than badgering the defendants when it came to the discovery process” she said. “I’m disgusted by their behavior and practices, and I see this as an abuse of the discovery process. [The injunction is] absolutely an infringement on the defendants’ rights, but unfortunately the way to defend a person’s rights is to avail yourself to a harassing discovery. The lengths to which UCLA goes to intimidate people through depositions is exhausting.”
But the university sees the injunction as a step forward and has no plans to slow research on animals.
“This permanent injunction is an important deterrent and sends a strong message to extremists: UCLA and the courts will not tolerate unlawful tactics to advance personal beliefs,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a prepared statement. “UCLA will continue to vigorously enforce the injunction and protect our researchers from harassment that falls outside the bounds of free speech. We remain committed to research involving laboratory animals.”
But despite the injunction and the protection it provides to researchers, sources close to the activists and organizations maintain that those who oppose animal research will not be silenced.
“The injunction is aimed at above-ground protesters who are exercising their constitutional right to free speech,” said Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, the office that loosely represents the radical animal rights activists. “By making it difficult for these people to speak freely, and by making them stay an unreasonable distance [from the residences of researchers], they are only increasing the number of people who are willing to break the law for this cause.”
Vlasak went on to say that the individuals targeted by the injunction are “solid citizens” and that such laws have little bearing on the actions of those individuals responsible for harassing and threatening researchers.
“They’re going after the wrong people,” he said. “These groups could care less [about the injunction]. If protesters are prohibited, the people who operate in the shadows will continue doing so, and they are almost never held accountable. The individuals listed in the injunction are lying low for a while, but there’s always people willing to step up in their place.”
Animal rights activists have routinely targeted a UCLA vivisector who lived north of Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, forcing the City Council to pass an ordinance creating a 50-foot buffer zone around a person’s private residence when that person is targeted in a protest. The intent of the law is to allow free speech while creating some privacy for the targeted homeowner.