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3 ARAs arrested during a peaceful, legal demonstration

[Associated Content]

On Friday, October 12, 2007 at approximately 7:30 PM, three animal rights activists were arrested by the Baltimore City Police during a peaceful and legal demonstration at Salt Tavern (2127 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland). The activists, who are all members of the Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition (BARC), have been holding weekly demonstrations at Salt Tavern to protest the restaurant's practice of serving foie gras, a so-called "delicacy" which is obtained by force-feeding ducks & geese. These demonstrations involve nothing more than group members standing on the edge of the sidewalk, holding signs and passing out leaflets, typically for one to two hours once a week.
On October 5, 2007, two Baltimore police officers showed up at a Salt Tavern protest, demanding that BARC produce a permit that said we were allowed to protest. BARC was under the impression that no permit was needed, but group members decided to look into the issue and agreed to move across the street for the evening's demo until the permit issue could be decided. Over the next week, numerous BARC members sprang into action, consulting private attorneys, the Baltimore City Permit Office, and even the Maryland office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Every qualified person we spoke with gave us the exact same answer: you do not need a permit to engage in constitutionally-protected free speech activities in the city of Baltimore.

After spending a week researching the issue, and being told by Baltimore's very own permit office that we did not need a permit, we decided we were within our legal rights to protest in front of Salt Tavern, so BARC returned to protest at 7:00 PM on Friday, October 12, 2007. Within minutes of arriving, the manager was on the phone with the police, and a few minutes after that, the small city block was swarming with squad cars and uniformed cops.
So why should anyone care about a few kids who got arrested in Baltimore? Because this case is indicative of the harassment and intimidation that activists routinely suffer at the hands of the Baltimore police. I know that "animal rights" is a hot button issue, and that not everyone sees eye-to-eye when it comes to foie gras. But this country was founded on certain principles, one of which is the right for anyone to express whatever opinion they want without government oppression. People have been protesting from the very birth of our nation-it is one of the very things that makes America "the land of the free."
Regardless of how you feel about animal rights, free speech is an issue that EVERYONE should care about. In Baltimore, it seems the police are more interested in protecting corporate interests than they are in protecting people's First Amendment rights. If you would like to help the arrested activists, please contact Sergeant Stuart of the Baltimore Police Department, who ordered the arrests that occurred this evening. Let Sergeant Stuart know that the Baltimore police shouldn't be arresting peaceful protesters, and ask him to hold his department accountable for violations of individuals' free speech rights. Sergeant Stuart (Badge #3981) of the Baltimore City Police can be reached by calling (410) 396-2422.

For more information about BARC's campaign against foie gras in the city of Baltimore, please visit

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