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Ruling limits activists’ contact with scientists

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge agreed Thursday to sharply limit the contact between animal rights activists and researchers at UCLA who had been targeted for their work with animals.

In a Santa Monica courtroom, Judge Gerald Rosenberg granted most of the terms sought by attorneys for the Regents of the University of California in a temporary restraining order against five individual activists and three animal rights groups.

Rosenberg asked for a revised copy of the order to sign this morning, an action UC attorney Wendy Sugg described as a formality.

The restraining order, which attorney John C. Hueston described as the first in a series of steps to protect UCLA faculty, will prohibit the defendants from harassing and attacking university researchers or trespassing on their property.

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Rosenberg granted a provision creating a 50-foot buffer around targeted scientists’ homes during the day and a 150-foot bubble at night.

The individuals named in UCLA’s suit are Linda Faith Greene, Hillary Roney, Kevin Olliff, Ramin Saber and Tim Rusmisel. The groups are Animal Liberation Brigade, the Animal Liberation Front and UCLA Primate Freedom Project, which is unaffiliated with the university.

All oppose the use of animals in research and allege that UCLA scientists conduct experiments that amount to torture.

Anonymous members of the first two groups, which university and law enforcement officials have labeled as terrorist organizations, have taken credit for several attacks and threats made toward at least seven UCLA researchers and staff, most within the last two years.

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An online communique from the Animal Liberation Brigade mentions an “animal liberationist shooting a vivisector dead on his doorstep.” The Primate Freedom website has a list of “Targets” with the names, home addresses, phone numbers and photos of several UCLA faculty members.

Earlier this month, a home owned by UCLA professor Edythe London was firebombed, though the fire went out by itself. Activists also caused $20,000 in damage when they flooded the first floor of the house in October with a garden hose.

Thursday’s suit was not designed to impinge on the protesters’ freedom of speech, but rather to prevent future harassment and invasion of privacy, Hueston said.

David Rutan, who is representing the defendants along with San Francisco-based attorney Christine Garcia, said the university was accusing his clients of being guilty by association.

“Some of these protesters happen to make protests,” he told the judge Thursday morning. “But you’ll be hard-pressed to make any links to illegal activity.”

UCLA’s suit, he said, may be a form of retaliation against an ongoing suit filed by several of the defendants in October. The suit alleges that the university and local police prevented them from exercising their civil liberties. UCLA officials denied the accusation.

The five defendants had often publicly applauded and encouraged actions by the three groups and had made threats using bullhorns outside employees’ homes and blocked the employees from entering campus buildings, Hueston said.

Saber, 35, of Reseda said he and the other defendants are “above-ground” protesters who use legal tactics.

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“It’s a vain attempt to try to silence us,” he said outside the courtroom.

“I don’t know if they’re trying to link us to them, but it wouldn’t make sense to show up here if we were actually involved in the things they’re accusing us of,” he said.

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tiffany.hsu@latimes.com


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