City Desk

Animal Rights Protests Have Cheh Mulling Restrictions

Remember the noise bill—when the D.C. Council attempted earlier this year to restrict amplified protests held in public space? After months of wrangling, restrictions were passed after being severely diluted thanks to labor community objections.

Now prepare to revisit some similar ground: Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh yesterday informed her colleagues that she intends to introduce emergency legislation at next Tuesday's council meeting that would "prohibit targeted picketing of an individual's home in a residential neighborhood."

The proximate reason for such legislation, the notice reads, is that "[r]ecently a series of demonstrators have targeted individual home[s] in the District with loud, harassing, and abusive picketing practices."

Cheh, in an interview, says the protests in question have been by allies of an animal-rights organization called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The group seeks to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a multinational corporation that performs product-safety testing on animals, by targeting the company's customers, investors, or various other parties connected to its operations.

Cheh declines to name the targets of the "very hostile" protests, some of which have occurred in her ward. "They have the most remote, if any, connection to [Huntingdon]," she says. The protesters, she notes, "are very, very aggressive and they're scary....They yell at the people, bang on their doors, wear masks, and say you should die."

Police officials met with Cheh and informed her there is "a lot of ambiguity between what is permissible and what is not permissible" regarding protests at private homes, she says. A call to police regarding the protests has not been immediately returned.

A constitutional law professor (and, incidentally, an animal-rights supporter), Cheh says she intends to draw her bill up to pass legal muster—to wit, a 1988 Supreme Court ruling that a municipal ordinance passed by a Wisconsin town banning protests "before or about" a private residence was in fact proper.

Cheh says she plans to introduce permanent legislation when the next council term begins and, accordingly, hold public hearings. In the meantime, she says, the emergency measure is necessary. "I'm hoping to draw it up as precisely as I need to. This would be a very simple thing that would copy the [Wisconsin] ordinance as so far as it is constitutional."

Don't expect the local labor community to react too kindly. They succeeded in getting the noise bill severely watered down after targeting councilmembers with pickets and radio ads.

Here's one question LL has: What'll Jack Evans do? He's a reliable labor supporter and helped amend the noise bill—but he was also subjected to a early-morning residential protest on that very issue.

UPDATE, 3:55 P.M.: LL has reaction from labor and police sources.

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  • PQ Rez

    So the racist bullhorn guys at 7th and H NW who make it impossible to enjoy that corner and create a problem for the folks in the condos above get to stay? What about our homes downtown Mary Cheh????

  • Luke

    I am one of these protesters and no matter WHAT legislation passes, we won't quit! This is not just aobut animal rights protests. This is also about the right of labor to picket the bosses' house, the right of the homeless to picket the homes of City Council members who vote to close homeles shelters, the right of friends of those killed by cops to picket the offending cop's home, and so on!

    Under a "targeted picketing" law, ALL the neighbors will get to "share the pain" as it becomes legally necessary to march up and down the block-or maybe a couple blocks. This will make things even less pleasant for those who torture animals, close homeless shelters, orcommit war crimes like John Negroponte, whose home I participated in protests at.

  • Lynne

    When someone has to put a bullet in the butt of one of these foolish "protestors" they'll get the message.These nuts really need to get a life.....and eat a steak, its really good.

  • Colleen

    Note- all of you so called flag waving Americans.
    Generations of soldiers have gone to war to fight for
    the freedoms of speech we enjoy in this country, but
    thru the last 8 years of government suppression and the
    last 30 years of growing "selfishness" the main base
    of the population has translated freedom of speech into
    - free speech is only good if I agree with it, all
    other speech is inconvenient and needs to be silenced.
    Well, if you have some free time on your hands and
    aren't too busy shopping you might want to read some history books. Dissent keeps us free. Willingess to
    take to the streets, to express outrage keeps a vent
    on the masses. Shut it all down and revolution will
    follow. If the people who really believe they are
    the center of the universe and "above" being called out
    on their actions are allowed to not be taken to task
    good luck when it isn't just selfish people at the
    reins, but evil ones.

  • Colleen

    and yes, Lynne
    if you think a bullet in the butt for protesters
    is appropriate to their learning curve, you ought
    to see a live primate vivesection where the poor
    creature gets no anesthesia and then gets to scream
    through the whole surgical procedure-
    or maybe a cat labotomy for the sake of some
    cosmetic; then we can talk "discomfort"
    -of course when some human does that to a human
    I certainly wouldn't condone some home demo in front
    of his house- it might disturb the neighbors
    and make them think about something other than

  • Lisa

    It is so disturbing to me that Orwell was right. We have lost America, as Lincoln warned if America is destroyed it will be by our own doing. There is overwhelming support for commerce no matter who gets killed or how devestated the environment is. The First Amendment is one of our most important founding pricipals, but here we have legislators and people who hate America so much that they want to shoot, arrest, and shut up people who are defending victims of cruel expiriments for profit.
    Ironically, while we are protesting something so important (the brutal torture and killing of 500 animals everyday), the neighbors who are protesting us with threats of shooting us and arresting us, and sicking homeland security on us, are protesting because they don't lke the noise. How is that right?

  • JH

    One has free speech, but one does not have the right to harass people in private spaces. You don't have the right to threaten other people or firebomb their cars or homes. Vivisection of chimps is no longer done, so quit lying and using old films to justify your actions. You are nothing more than terrorists. You have a right to free speech, but you do not have the right to intimidate or harass people who have broken no laws. Their homes is not their place of business. This is still America and people have the right to peace in their homes. You are all acting like Nazis demanding that people think and act like you. You are the people who hate American and hate other people so much that you threaten and harass them from legitimate useful work that protects people from disease and harm. You lie to justify your actions, but nothing can justify threatening to harm another person. We will not let you take over this country. You will not shut down farming, the owning of animals or medical research. Go find another country to live in. Lets see how you would do in China.

  • Matt

    I’ve spent the last couple hours reading up on this, from both sides. It seems to me that Council Member Cheh has something of a point. There’s a difference between an organized, peaceful protest, and banging on people’s front doors and generally harassing/threatening them. I don’t think an arbitrary ban of home demos is a justifiable solution, but I do think clearer definitions of what constitutes a home demo should be decided upon. One possible action the “victims” of these demonstrations could take, is by hanging “no trespassing” signs on their property. Sure, some of them may have homes situated closely to the street, so that may not help them too much, but that’s kind of their problem, if you ask me. Even so, there has to be a line drawn somewhere; I don’t care what these people are being accused of by the protesters.

    Some one stated earlier that outlawing demos will only backfire. If protesting is outlawed, then you’ll get outlaws doing the protesting. I agree.

    That said, this connection with Alice Rivlin is pretty fucking tenuous, at best. From what I can find, her so-called “huge” campaign contributions to Cheh have amounted to a whopping $500 in 2006. That’s according to the DC office of campaign finance. Also, even if her contribution were larger, she’s not even directly connected to this ass-bag corporation that hurts/kills the animals! She represents the NYSE, whose horrible crime is allowing Huntingdon’s stock to be traded. Welcome to the USA! Do you think that was solely her decision or that she was involved in it, whatsoever? And really, of all the horrible things corporations do on a daily basis, why are people wigging-out over this relatively small one, that by comparison, does nowhere near the amount of horrific acts that a corporation like Monsanto does? I understand people’s frustrations regarding the animal abuse, but there are much bigger fish to fry, is what I’m saying. A lot of these protesters come off sounding like unreasonable lunatics, grasping for anything they can possibly exploit. That may or may not be the case, but perception is often more valued than the truth.

    I think people should be allowed to protest people where they live, but there needs to be a definition of what that entails, before people on either side end up catching a bullet in the face. I plan to write Cheh, and tell her just that.

  • Colleen

    If one has a notion of respect for the law,
    public space should be open for public
    assembly and public discourse [free speech]
    so that would constitute the sidewalk or
    public easement, if there is not a side walk
    built in front of a property- which divides
    the private space from the street.
    If the people doing the demos knock on the
    door and go back to the public space
    this does not constitute trespass, unless
    the location is posted in advance. Matt is
    correct,and the law exists already.
    If one takes an action [works as a vivesector
    or promotes vivesection] , the public should and does
    have a right to say something about it.
    In the case of JH saying primate vivesection
    does not exist in this day an age "he" is either
    a very big wishful thinker, mis informed, or
    "writing" on behalf of the corporate vivesector giants.

  • Elizabeth

    Animal "rights"?? Animals need loving care NOT "rights" For the truth about the animal rights terrorists check out these websites -

  • colleen

    ELIZ- "my word", what loving care are you referring to?
    The care we are obliged to give animals of all kinds
    but rarely do? I refer to land use and the inability of
    most greedy humans to realize that wild space benefits
    all species on the planet, or do you refer to fluffy
    cats and dogs who are bred, over bred and live filthy
    lives in puppy mills so some low life can have an income?
    Are you referring to the lovely care they get in fur farms, where they are 1/2 starved and live in filth cages
    circling each other before they get their necks broken
    or gassed?
    Did you know that with all of the thousands of nice people doing rescue, transport, rehoming, sanctuary
    that still about 80% of all new "pets in homes" are
    from breeders and pet stores while millions of animals
    get the needle/ gas or worse?
    Where are all the nice people who care about animals
    but don't take the time to find out that their shampoo's
    and food coloring are tested on other types of farm
    animals, mice and rats? That they are needlesslytortured to the NTH degree and then disposed of in a land fill?
    What responsibility does anyone take for any of that, except a handful of people who can't sleep at night, and
    you who probably don't get off your back end to do anything for anyone but yourself has the gaul to call
    other people names that should be reserved for the
    worst of humanity. Well as soon as you see the light
    and quit revolving around yourself as center of the
    universe, you might want to volunteer for one of the
    many animals I hear about, beaten in the head
    with a golf club or ears burned off and left for dead.
    It's about doing something, not complaining about the
    ones that do something. Unless I'm mistaken, you
    probably make your living off the backs of the innocent
    animals don't you?

  • Mike Licht

    Hey, how 'bout ccalling in some of those concerned, caring animal rights activitsts from Santa Cruz?

  • Colleen

    Hey Mike, maybe you want to look at cat labotomy
    videos while you change the topic at hand?
    Maybe I could send pictures of dogs in
    acute distress from front lobe trauma,
    or your basic primate having his entrails removed
    without anesthesia, does that work for you?
    Why do people who have nothing to gain
    come to the defense of a defenseless corporation
    unless there is something in their own lives or
    past that spells abuse. I don't get it.
    Either you say - they are animals and anything goes
    or you say no- they have the right to their
    integral being and should not be used for the
    unjust, beligerent needs of humans. What makes
    the human animal so special? When you answer that
    remember it might just might, possibly apply to
    all species.

  • Mike DeBonis

    I am no advocate of animal cruelty, Colleen, but those issues are somewhat separate from the issues at hand here.

  • Colleen

    Mike B, I beg to disagree, Eliz and the first Mike
    determined that to care was equated to
    terrorism and extremist behavior- I would like
    to not let the true exremist behavior leave the
    forefront here- animal abusers, whether mentally ill
    or corporately paid, it is all the same to
    me and many others.

  • Animalia_Libero

    The only beings that need to be protected from people are the nonhuman animals being tortured, poisoned, gassed, and so forth in laboratories.

    All of the people that whine about being picketed should really spend their lives in a laboratory cage and then try complaining.

    On top of this, it is a first amendment right to do these protests. Taking it away is to deny the constitution.

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