The campaign against science experiments on animals at the University of California continues to grow stronger, but not without opposition. Over the last several months, activists have been conducting frequent demonstrations outside the homes of UC animal researchers — a handful of people with signs, a bullhorn and some literature to hand out to neighbors. The university’s response has been over the top raising the question: “why are they so afraid of the public hearing about animal research?”
At the state level, the University of California Regents have won restraining orders on behalf of researchers at UCLA that not only restrict protesters from engaging in home demonstrations, but also restrict us from posting addresses and other information about animal researchers on the internet. The vivisectors are pushing AB 2297, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, through the California Assembly which would block activists from sharing info about animal researchers on the internet. Here in Berkeley, in response to the restrictions on internet postings, the “Stop UC Vivisection” website has been taken down.
Police have also had a more watchful eye on recent home demonstrations. UC and Berkeley police are choosing to chase protesters around all day, sometimes with as many as three cars. At one demonstration, an activist’s car was impounded for a minor infraction. When police came to cite the driver, the car’s passengers and driver were photographed by a plain-clothes officer. One of the cops joked that the photos would be sent to the FBI.
At another demonstration, a Berkeley Police Officer followed protesters long after the demonstrations had ended; first to a vegan pizza place (where the officer accepted an invitation to come in and try a slice and later admitted he liked it) and later to the Berkeley infoshop, where he waited outside until dark for them to come out.
In the minds of the police and the legislators, it seems there is no question of who is a greater threat to civil society — underground facilities where animals go to get their eyes sewn shut or be fed cocaine, or people with protest signs who bring attention to it on residential streets and the internet. For the rest of us, AB 2297 and the heightened police surveillance are yet another blow to civil liberties afforded by the media-hype called “The War on Terrorism.”
UC Berkeley spokesperson Robert Sanders has raised the absurdity level to orange by commenting to the press that, “We need to prove a pattern to show the court these people should be banned from harassing people in their homes. They are domestic terrorists, and the FBI has started treating them just as they would Al-Qaida.”
Statements such as these demonstrate the paranoid, power-drunk logic of the state and its organs. The amazing thing is the way that a few protesters on a Sunday afternoon have struck fear into the hearts of research-industrial bureaucrats.
This university, which touts itself as the birthplace of the free speech movement has made it clear that they don’t want their dirty laundry hanging out to dry. UC Berkeley is getting ready to build the Li Ka-Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences which will include a basement-level vivisection laboratory and will extend Cal’s existing Northwest Animal Facility by seventy percent. We must continue to personalize this struggle if we stand a chance at preventing these horrors.