The Protest That Launched A Thousand Lawsuits

Okay, maybe a thousand lawsuits is a bit of an exaggeration, but a Utah judge ordered Salt Lake County to pay animal rights protesters over a couple of demonstrations that the activists tried to hold at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City in December 2004.

In both cases, police told the Utah Animal Rights Coalition activists that they did not have a legal right to hold their protests. Salt Lake County apparently had passed an ordinance requiring a 30-day notice to obtain a permit for a protest.

But the Associated Press reported in July that a judge has ruled that the county cannot apply that rule to small, impromptu protests like that organized by UARC.


Judge Orders SL County to Pay Animal Rights Protesters. KSL News, July 28, 2005.

Salt Lake County Settles Civil Suit with Animal Rights Activists

ABC 4 News in Utah reported in April that Salt Lake County settled a lawsuit filed by two animal rights activists who claimed that a county employee assaulted them during a December 2004 protest.

Salt Lake County had previously settled another lawsuit arising from the December protest. Utah Animal Rights Coalition activists Aaron Lee and Peter Tucker attempted to hand out literature near Abravenel Hall in downtown Salt Lake City.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived and told them they could not hold a demonstration within one block of Abravenel Hall, and threatened to arrest the activists if they did not move.

The County settled a civil rights lawsuit, agreeing to cover Lee and Tucker’s court costs as well as awarding them $500 apiece.

In this latest round, the County settled a civil lawsuit alleging that a County civilian employee assaulted them. According to Utah’s ABC 4 TV, after the sheriff’s deputies arrived, a civilian employee joined the discussion.

Animal rights activist Sean Dinier, who was also apparently at the protest, claimed that the employee then grabbed a pamphlet out of his hand and threw it at another activist.

According to ABC 4 TV, that lawsuit was settled out of court for $1,500.


SL County Settles Dispute With Protesters. ABC 4 TV, April 15, 2005.

Salt Lake County Reaches Settlement Agreement with Two Activists

Salt Lake County this month reached a settlement with two animal rights activists who were improperly barred from handing out animal rights literature in downtown Salt Lake City in early December.

Aaron Lee and Peter Tucker were attempting to hand out literature and show a video nea Abravanel Hall in downtown Salt Lake City on December 7, 2004, when sheriff’s deputy Sherida Holgate spotted the two and told them they could not hold a demonstration within one block of Abravanel Hall (where do they get these deputies from?) The deputy then threatened the activists with arrest if they persisted.

Of course the deputy was talking out of his ass, and Lee and Tucker filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county. The County in February agreed to settle the lawsuit, paying $10,000 to cover attorneys fees amounting to $10,000 dollars, and giving Utah Animal Rights Coalition, Tucker and Lee $500 apiece.

Utah Animal Rights Coalition is also suing the county claiming that the county’s ban against spontaneous demonstrations is also illegal. Salt Lake County apparently has as provision requiring a 30 day notice before any sort of demonstration can be held. The Utah Animal Rights Coalition’s lawsuit claims that,

Defendants can not require a thirty (30) day advance permit for a free speech activity on a designated public forum when it is small (six people or less), creates no need for advance planning by the county and does not cause a need for the availability or expenditure of unusual government resources.

And they’re absolutely right in this writer’s opinion. These activists have the right to hold protests, hand out their literature, and show their videos. Having authorities interfere with and shut down such activities should not be tolerated anywhere for any reason. Requiring a 30 day notice for demonstration is absurd as well, and hopefully the federal court will promptly toss that requirement out as well.


SL County Agrees to Pay Animal Activists. KSL News, February 14, 2005.

Animal rights group aims for protest leeway. Pamela Manson, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 2005.

Utah Business Faces Official Indifference Toward Illegal Acts

Last year, activists with the Utah Animal Rights Coalition snuck onto the premises of the Circle Four Farm in Beaver County, Utah, and stole two pigs that it claimed were sick and/or injured.

The farm wants local police to pursue charges against the activists, but so far has been met with official indifference apparently because of the relatively low value of what was stolen (the pigs are only valued at $30 each).

Beaver County Attorney Vaughn Christiansen told the Salt Lake Tribune,

It’s [the investigation] just kind of all fizzled out. I still haven’t even received a police report on the case.

Meanwhile the Sheriff’s Office, which would been responsible for producing that police report, says it turned the case over to the FBI for some reason. Not surprisingly, the FBI isn’t going to pursue the case.

Beaver County Sheriff Ken Yardley told the Salt Lake Tribune that the theft of the pigs could constitute a felony under Utah laws that specifically protect agricultural property, but the activists would likely get off relatively easy due to the value of the animals as well as it being a likely first offense for the activists.

Which is difficult to understand. Presumably if a local business called to say that it had apprehended a shoplifter trying to leave with $60 worth of merchandise, the Sheriff would not tell the store owner to simply let the person go because $60 wasn’t really that much and if it were the person’s first offense he or she would likely get off with a minor punishment.


Investigation fizzles in hog farm raid. Brent Israelsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 2003.

South Salt Lake, Utah Settles with Animal Rights Activists

South Salt Lake, Utah, reached a settlement agreement with the Utah Animal Rights Coalition over protests earlier this year at South Salt Lake KFC restaurants.

UARC attorney Brian Barnard filed the complaint which arose over South Salt Lake’s regulation of protests. The city requires five days notification to obtain a permit to protest — the law doesn’t include any provision at all for spontaneous protests. The city did waive the five day requirement for UARC but the permit it was finally issued said the protester could not “approach any customers who wish to enter the business premises.”

When UARC applied for a permit for a March 10 protest, the permit was denied because the group had not filed for the permit at least 5 days in advance.

The settlement between the animal rights group and the city required South Salt Lake to pay $101 in damages and agree to revise its ordinances relating to protests. The city is currently conceding changes that allow protestors to get within 5 feet of people who are not part of the protest, and would change the 5 day notification period to 3 days.


South Salt Lake Settles Suit Over Protests at KFC.

Judge Rejects Olympics Protest Lawsuit

A federal judge earlier this month dismissed a lawsuit by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition that argued that Salt Lake City officials waited to long to issue the animal rights group a demonstration permit for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition applied for such a permit in March 2001, but Salt Lake City did not issue it a permit until November 2001. The animal rights groups sued the city for not having any sort of deadline for granting or refusing permits.

Salt Lake City argued that the delay occurred from a combination of the extended period of time it took the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to finalize its plans for the Olympics as well as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks which raised new security concerns that had to be addressed at the Olympics. Salt Lake City did later amend its ordinance to require a 28-day response to such requests.

But Judge Paul Cassell ruled that the Utah Animal Rights Coalition lacked standing to bring a lawsuit because it failed to show it had suffered any harm from the delay, noting that “it is undisputed that UARC actually staged several well-organized protests during the Olympics” and had been given notice of its permits three months prior the Winter Olympics.


Judge tosses suit on Oly permits. Michael Vigh, Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 2002.