Animal Defense League & L.A. clash over right to protest vs. right to privacy
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2006:
LOS ANGELES–Animal Defense League attorney John J. Uribe and
City of Los Angeles prosecutor Spencer Hart clashed in municipal
court on January 12 in the first 2006 round of a multi-year struggle
between the ADL and the city over the rights of privacy and the right
ADL activists Pamela Ferdin and Jerry Vlasak, M.D., both
longtime opponents of the leadership of the Los Angeles Depart-ment
of Animal Regulation, are charged with criminal trespass for
allegedly violating a Los Angeles ordinance in June 2004 that
requires demonstrators to stay 100 feet from the doors of protest
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo on December 16,
2005 reinforced those charges by filing another 14 misdemeanor counts
against the ADL and individual members, resulting from 62 alleged
criminal acts. The case alleges that members of the ADL chanted “We
know where you sleep at night” outside Los Angeles animal control
director of field operations David Diliberto’s home, placed the
names of his four children on the ADL web site, left a message on
his home answering machine saying “Resign or we go after your wife,”
typed a “666” text message purportedly symbolic of the devil on his
cell telephone, and posed as mortuary workers in a 3 a.m. visit to
his home, claiming they had come to collect a corpse.
“The ADL faces fines of up to $120,000 if convicted,”
summarized David Zahniser of Copley News Service. “Delgadillo said
he may use the case to strip the league of its nonprofit status and
dissolve it as a corporation.”
However, “Delgadillo has had a mixed track record of
prosecutions against ADL activists,” Zanhiser observed. “Ferdin and
volunteer Natalie Norcross were acquitted last year of charges that
they illegally protested within 100 feet of the San Pedro home of
then-Mayor James Hahn.”
Ferdin and Vlasak meanwhile have sued the City of Los Angeles
for $3 million in damages.
Vlasak spoke to reporters about the recent arrests of seven
suspected eco-terrorists (page 3) as a representative of the “North
American Animal Liberation Press Office.” In 2004 Vlasak was barred
from visiting England to address an animal rights conference over
remarks he made in 2003 that seemed to endorse killing vivisectors.
In April 2005, while a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society board of directors, Vlasak allegedly said similar about
sealers in an interview with CBC radio, and was removed from the Sea
Shepherd board after allegedly posting personal information about a
sealer and his wife on the Sea Shepherd web site that according to
the CBC brought their family “a torrent of death threats.”
Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson deleted the material.
Another long-running battle between activists and animal
control may be near an end, with the scheduled February 27
retirement of 32-year Atlanta Humane Society president Bill Garrett.
Recently promoted to Colonel in the Georgia State Militia by Governor
Sonny Perdue, Garrett will be succeeded at Atlanta Humane by Rick
Collard, 57, who formerly headed Broward County Animal Control in
Florida and the Clark County Humane Society in Vancouver, Washington.
Atlanta Humane operated the Fulton County Animal Control
shelter as well as its own facilities for the first 29 years of
Garrett’s tenure. After WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal &
Constitution became critical of Garrett’s management of both the
humane society and animal control, the Atlanta Humane board sued
former employee Barbara Harkins and activist Kathi Mills for
allegedly making libelous comments–Harkins as a source interviewed
by WSB-TV, Mills as an online commentator.
The case against Mills was dismissed in June 2005, as was
the case against Harkins in September 2005, after the Georgia
Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a November 2003 verdict by
the George Court of Appeals.