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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Philadelphia Police & PETA Protests

Around 8:00 EST tonight, around a dozen or so protesters from the animal rights group PETA stopped by my very small, very quiet, residential street and began a loud protest.  Their target was the house belonging to a neighbor, who works somewhere in the depths of the GlaxoSmithKline public relations department (she isn't a spokesperson, and so far as I can tell, has never appeared publicly for Glaxo.)  She also will be let go from Glaxo at the end of the year, and is moving to D.C., to be with her husband, who works in a liberal lobbying firm.  This isn't the first time my street has encountered these activists: a month ago, someone spray painted some nasty things on her front door.  Glaxo apparently paid to have the door cleaned and re-painted.  Good for them.

I couldn't tell exactly was the message of the protest was, because the bullhorns/whistling/chanting was too loud for coherence (plus, I was hopping mad.)  It seems to me that going after middle managers where they live is unlikely to win converts for any cause, although maybe that isn't the point.  It also shortly became hard to focus on the message when another neighbor (a sweet, short, architect) came out of his house holding a five-foot-long sword.  It looked sort of like this.

The cop on the scene (who I gather PETA had brought with them) sorted out the sword situation and the protesters moved on after ten or so minutes.  What I found interesting is that when I asked the policeman (in plain-clothes, to "defuse tension" he said) why he couldn't enforce the applicable noise, blocking the sidewalk, protest-permit or disturbing the peace regs, he made two claims: (1) the police never enforced those rules against protests smaller than 75 people; and (2) the protesters' constitutional rights made it "impossible" to enforce any laws unless they "hurt someone."  He suggested I hire a lawyer an get a court order enjoining a further protest.  I told him that I thought that lawyers were too expensive, and he laughed.

Pretty wild night.  Not the department's prior practice on protesters.  But maybe things have changed.

Posted by Dave Hoffman on August 25, 2005 at 10:32 PM | Permalink


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I liked the subtle hint that if the woman weren’t being laid off, or if her husband worked at a *conservative* lobbying firm in Washington, it would have been less bad to have her door vandalized and the life of the neighborhood disturbed.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Aug 26, 2005 12:56:31 AM

The cop was probably wrong. The Supreme Court has held that the privacy interest in the home can trump competing free speech rights, particularly where a protest is aimed at a single residence. See Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474 (1988) and Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77 (1949).

Posted by: Ben Barros | Aug 26, 2005 9:16:15 AM

Kate - it would be equally bad no matter what her or her husband's political persuasion was; admittedly I find the protest even more nonsensical given that she is leaving the job. That said, I'd be just as confused as to the goals of the movement if she were the CEO. (Although, if she were, you'd expect our street to be a bit more fancy.)

Ben - thanks for the cites. If they return tonight, I'll try pressing them on the cop!

Posted by: Dave Hoffman | Aug 26, 2005 11:05:27 AM

Just ask them for their addresses and sit your car there, maybe with the help of your architecht neighbor and lean on the horn for a while. Perhaps they and their neghbirs will enjoy your protest against their protest.

If you fell particularly neasty, install faux fur seat covers.

Now many will say this is juvenile and petty, but really, most of these type of protesters have no idea how obnoxious they are and how much they harm their cause by looking like a bunch of selfish lunatics.

And another non-sequitur, ask the officer to see his badge. Undoubtedly as a detective, it is kept in a leather wallet. When he pulls it out the fury of the protest may be diverted by the presence of dead animal skin.

Posted by: TomH | Aug 26, 2005 4:53:49 PM

Whatever one might say about the wisdom of this particular protest, I think it should be acknowledged that our exploitation of animals raises serious ethical and moral questions that are continuously being debated by philosophers and lawyers. Sites such as http://www.hfa.org/factory/ include photo galleries depicting just some of the ways in which animals are currently raised for food. There is a strong argument that almost all of the suffering we impose on animals is actually unnecessary and for trivial human purposes.

Posted by: Darian Ibrahim | Aug 26, 2005 7:08:18 PM


We all think you're crazy too.

Friends at:


Posted by: Abby Dash | Apr 28, 2007 4:28:50 PM

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