City Desk

More on Cheh’s Home Protests Bill

LL continues to follow up on Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh's plans to impose new restrictions on protests at private homes in the wake of alleged intimidation by animal-rights protesters.

He just spoke to John Boardman, a leader with Local 25 of UNITE HERE, a union representing hotel and restaurant employees. He and his union's membership were key in getting the noise bill heavily amended.

Though neither he nor anyone else has seen the legislation that Cheh plans to introduce next week, he raised some general concerns about restricting protests at private homes. Says Boardman, "I can think personally of any number of times where on any given issue being in front of someone's house is very powerful."

For instance, he cited "a landlord who is a slumlord who lives in a mansion in another part of town. Are you saying that tenants living in squalor can't go to that residence?" He also raised an example from his own experience, when protesters "picketed the house of someone who had a homeworker who hadn't been paid....There's nowhere else you can go."

Boardman noted that if protesters are trespassing or threatening violence, "Those are two violations of law, and...there's a remedy already prescribed by law. You don't take away free speech generally because of an issue espoused by a single group."

"I don't understand this, I really don't," he says. "This is a very sensitive issue for us. The one thing working people have is a voice."

LL also spoke to Patrick Burke, assistant chief in charge of the D.C. police's homeland security division.

Burke spoke in general terms about the group whose behavior Cheh is trying to address—Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. He didn't have many specifics about the group, other than that they tend to target "specific individuals." Their protests, he says, happen "sporadically."

"They've got right to be near the object of their protest so they can be seen and heard," he says. But any clarification regarding the rules for protesting at a residence are welcome, he says.

"The police department always wants to see things in black-and-white, " Burke says. "The clearer it is for us, the easier it makes out jobs."

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  • Fister

    Ya, so let's all protest in front of these jack-tards houses for the next few months and see if the working man should still be able to disrupt the lives of all the poor souls who happen to be neighbors with the target.

  • Victor

    SHAC is against animal research. There are many places they could go to have their voices heard -- so the analogies to other cases mentioned above don't apply. Clearly, this group is not interested in educating the public about their cause. They simply want to intimidate and terrorize individuals whose (legal) work they don't approve of. This is not free speech. It should be illegal.

  • Luke

    I have been in many home demos targetting not only Huntingdon Life Sciences customers/investors, but also war criminals like John Negroponte-and Jack Evans for closing homeless shelters and for destroying the SE Gay enclave for a baseball stadium. Should working people be unable to protest last weekend's Fenty fundraiser because it took place at developer Donatelli's palatial home?

    I have also seen this from the other side, when I used to do clinic defense in the 1990's. Clinton's FACE law banning the antiabortion protests did stop those 800 person hatefests we had to mobilize to protect clinics from. Unfortunately the FACE law also had another effect-a massive wave of violence against women's health clinics started almost as soon as the protests disappeared!

    It got so bad clinic escorts and doctors had to wear body armor because doctors were being shot. A personal friend was awoken twice in the night by bomb blasts from a nearby clinic. It took most of the '90's for the wave of anti-abortion violence that the clinic protest ban unleashed.

    If protest is outlawed, only outlaws can protest, as we learned to our sorrow while defending the clinics.

  • Victor

    Luke -- you speak as if there is no violence from the animal rights movement at the moment. Not true. Visit the animal liberation front web-site and judge for yourself. The violence from these groups is spreading across the country. Thus, the need to control it in some way (before the start shooting people as they did with abortion doctors).

  • Luke

    The use of force by the ALF is increasing in places like California almost in direct proportion to the severity of police repression of legal protests. When peaceful protest becomes as legally hazardous as direct action, people decide to "buy a more effective tactic" with their tolerance for personal risk.

    Also, we need to discuss the possibilty that "pay for play" is in play, so to speak. One of Mary Cheh's biggest donors of campaign cash is Alive Rivlin of the NYSE. Since the NYSE allows HLS to be listed on their exchange, NYSE officials get home demos. Alive Rivlin has received a few and no doubt is now begging the recipient of her campaign cash to do something about it.

    Gov Blagovich in Illinois is probably going to prison for trying to sell Barrack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Surely Mary Cheh understands that now is not the time to be selling favors!

  • Luke

    Correction-it's ALICE Rivlin of the NYSE

  • al gonzales

    Mary Cheh is fucking the Constitution, & should join John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, & other Constitution-fuckers from the Bush Administration.
    In the past, Mary Cheh usually made sense. Now, apparently, she's sold her brain & soul to these animal experimenters.

  • al gonzales

    The First Amendment says "no law" abridging the Freedom of Speech is constitutional. What part of "no law" do you not understand?

  • 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 protestors 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.


    The group in DC that has been protesting customers/investors/collaborators of Huntingdon Life Sciences are NOT SHAC! They are an independent group and DO NOT conduct or incite any illegal activity! Please get your facts right, before writing the article. Thanks!