UCLA goes to court in bid to protect researchers from animal extremists
Legal action follows attempted firebombings and harassment
By Phil Hampton February 21, 2008
UCLA has sued extremists to stop a campaign of terrorism, vandalism and menacing threats directed at faculty and administrators who conduct or support research involving laboratory animals.
A hearing was held Feb. 21 before Judge Gerald Rosenberg in Department A of Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica. The judge indicated he would rule at 3 p.m. on a request for a temporary restraining order. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is expected to follow in two to three weeks.
The lawsuit names three groups and five individuals as defendants and seeks the restraining order and a permanent injunction prohibiting them from harassing UCLA personnel or facilitating their harassment. The University of California Regents, which oversees all 10 UC campuses, is serving as the plaintiff of record on behalf of UCLA.
A copy of the complaint is online at the UCLA Newsroom.
On three occasions since June 2006, Molotov cocktail-type devices have been left near the homes of UCLA faculty who conduct or oversee research involving animals. In addition, their homes have been vandalized and they have received threatening phone calls, e-mails and, on at least one occasion, a package rigged with razor blades. Extremists have appeared at residences in the middle of the night, worn ski masks to conceal their identity and used megaphones to shout threats, obscenities and epithets.
"Enough is enough," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "We're not willing to wait until somebody is injured before taking legal action to protect our faculty and administrators from terrorist tactics, violence and harassment."
"It is imperative to provide a safe environment for our faculty to conduct research — research that leads to new medicines and treatments that benefit our society and is conducted in compliance with stringent federal laws and university guidelines," Block said.
The defendants are groups known as the UCLA Primate Freedom Project, the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade, as well as several individuals believed to affiliate with these groups. The suit alleges that these groups and individuals have promoted and facilitated unlawful activities directed against UCLA faculty and administrators. The Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade have in some cases claimed responsibility for unlawful activities directed against UCLA personnel and their homes.
The UCLA Primate Freedom Project maintains a Web site displaying the photographs, home addresses and phone numbers of targeted UCLA personnel, and the Animal Liberation Front press office regularly posts anonymous communiqués about the Animal Liberation Brigade's unlawful activities. The FBI has identified the Animal Liberation Front, which publicly advocates violence to advance its aim of discontinuing the use of lab animals in research, as a top domestic terrorism threat.
Several of the individual defendants named in the lawsuit have recently been the subjects of temporary restraining orders and injunctions prohibiting them from harassing employees affiliated with the City of Los Angeles and private institutions.
Extremists also have targeted research personnel affiliated with other UC campuses in Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have invaded researchers' privacy, interfered with business practices and intentionally caused emotional distress, among other unlawful activities.
The lawsuit asks a judge to prohibit the defendants from committing violence or threatening violence against UCLA personnel who conduct or support animal research; vandalizing or threatening to vandalize their property; violating local noise ordinances; and posting on Web sites — or otherwise disseminating — personal information about the UCLA personnel. It also asks a judge to order the defendants to post information on their Web sites indicating that the restraining order prohibits certain activities relating to the UCLA personnel.
In 1989, UCLA filed suit against different animal research opponents and received a permanent injunction after extremists held unruly demonstrations outside the homes of researchers.
UCLA is cooperating with the FBI and the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force in criminal investigations of the attempted firebombings and other activities directed at UCLA personnel. UCLA and various law enforcement units are offering a combined $170,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the attempted firebombings.
"The criminal investigations continue, and we are hopeful that the rewards will ultimately lead to charges being filed against those who have committed illegal acts against some of the country's most prominent researchers," Block said.
Persons with information are encouraged to contact the FBI at (310) 477-6565.
Representing UCLA and the Regents in the lawsuit are John C. Hueston and Wendy A. Sugg of the law firm Irell & Manella.