Reportback from Portland activists:
Friday was the first anniversary of the No New Animal Lab campaign, so activists in the Portland area celebrated with a surprise protest at the home of Tim Baugus, a Senior Vice President with Skanska. And that was just the start to a full weekend of celebrating!
On Saturday night, activists found that one way to take advantage of the dark is to shine a projection of animal testing footage on the front of the house of someone who is trying to profit off the construction of a new animal lab — and so they visited the house of David Schmidt, who signed the lab contract for Skanska, and displayed horrific footage from inside the walls of a lab of Covance, which supplies primates to the University of Washington. The footage made it quite clear to Schmidt’s neighbors just how horrific of a nightmare he has lent his name to, and how important it is to make sure that Skanska never finishes building a lab in which new horrors can take place. Through bullhorns that echoed through the neighborhood, the activists let Schmidt know that the images of animals on his house are their motivation — their lives are what motivate us to do whatever is necessary to stop the lab and make sure that no animals are ever held captive and killed inside of it.
Several police cars appeared in Schmidt’s neighborhood, but that didn’t stop the film from rolling. Grumbling about how “unfortunately what they’re doing is free speech” to a neighbor who came out to complain, the cops stood around as the activists continued to play the footage, chant, and cover Schmidt’s cul-de-sac with chalk messages.
Holding those images of animals in their hearts and minds, on Sunday night people returned once again to the houses of both Tim Baugus and David Schmidt. Armed with several bullhorns and screaming chants, the activists first went to the neighborhood of Baugus. Four police vehicles pulled up and lined the street, but the protest continued in full force — and lights from the police cars lit up the protest as a large group of neighbors gathered to watch. One officer talked with a protester about the noise, but she reminded him that they were engaging in public advocacy on a public sidewalk, and the sounds of First Amendment activity receive greater protections than other forms of noise. The officer acknowledged that, but said that if neighbors complained, then the noise would be considered “unreasonable” and a violation of the local noise ordinance. The officer was seeming to neglect that First Amendment activity does not become less protected just because it is bothersome to some people; rather, First Amendment protections are of particular importance when speech is of a controversial nature and the U.S. Supreme Court has found: “Strong and effective extemporaneous rhetoric cannot be nicely channeled in purely dulcet phrases. An advocate must be free to stimulate his audience with spontaneous and emotional appeals for unity and action in a common cause.” NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 928 (1982).
The weekend ended with a final protest at Schmidt’s home, where activists once again reminded him: he signed the contract, he knows what he needs to do to get the protests to stop. Until then, activists will do what’s needed to stop the lab, making a second anniversary of the No New Animal Lab campaign unnecessary.