As rodeo kicks off,
animal-rights activists arrive
New law frees up those protesting 60th annual event.
By Mary F. Albert | Staff Writer
Published on Friday, October 29, 2004
DALY CITY -- When the Grand National Rodeo kicks off its 60th annual show
at the Cow Palace this weekend, Alfredo Kuba will mount his "animal
liberation mobile" in preparation for another year of animal rights
Only this year, when Kuba and fellow activists
try to persuade Cow Palace patrons that rodeos are a cruel form of entertainment,
they will be free to traverse the parking lot, chat with patrons and leaflet
It was not always this way, said Kuba, who
founded the nonprofit organization Silicon Valley in Defense of Animals.
In years past, police confined him and others
to small "free speech" zones up to 265 feet from the arena's
entrance, manhandled them if they overstepped zone boundaries while trying
to leaflet people, and even arrested them in some cases.
Twelve years and several arrests later, Kuba
said he got tired of the "chilling effect" such intimidation
had on what he believes to be his constitutional right to free speech.
In 2001, he filed suit against 1-A Agricultural
Association, the governmental body created by California to organize fairs
such as the rodeo.
Initially, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J.
Hamilton upheld the Cow Palace's decision to confine activists, citing
event organizers' concerns that the activists could disrupt traffic or
threaten the safety of patrons if allowed to maneuver freely.
But less than two weeks ago, on Oct. 19,
a three-judge panel of 9th Circuit judges overruled her decision, explaining
that defendants did not adequately show how a small group of demonstrators
normally numbering less than 15 and carrying signs posed a threat to patrons.
Today, activists hail the panel's decision
as a victory for free speech.
The decision, said Deniv Bolbol of Citizens
for Cruelty-Free Entertainment, "reinforces that the Constitution
is still alive despite corporate interests."
Whether the panel's decision sets a precedent
that will protect other activists throughout the state has yet to be seen,
agree First Amendment specialists.
"I know from first-hand knowledge that
animal rights activists have their rights infringed on constantly,"
said attorney Baron Miller, who has litigated numerous First Amendment
One of the fundamental problems with this
area of the law is that case law remains "remarkably unclear,"
said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.
Kuba and others plan to hand out leaflets
on Friday, Saturday and Nov. 7, when the rodeo ends.
Source: San Francisco Examiner