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Vlasak, who styles himself the chief of the “North American Animal Liberation Press Office,” says things like, “If a researcher won’t stop abusing animals and is stopped physically, whether with the use of force or is killed, I certainly won’t lose sleep over that idea.”
The FBI, which hopes to prosecute animal-rights extremists as domestic terrorists, won’t let its agents discuss UCLA with the media. But what the bureau’s representatives do say seems to affirm terrorism analysts’ concerns.
“They’re challenging, in that you have individuals taking credit anonymously,” says Laura Eimiller of the FBI’s L.A. office. “There are parallel investigations going on several attacks. We’re concerned that violence has escalated.” Joe Schadler of the FBI’s San Francisco office, which is investigating recent attacks on UC Santa Cruz researchers, agrees: “There’s a lot of secrecy.”
So UCLA has taken matters into its own hands. In the fiscal year 2007, UCLA paid $300,000 for enhanced security — home security systems and, in some cases, private security guards — on targeted researchers, says UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton. Last April in Santa Monica Superior Court, the university won a preliminary injunction against the three most visible groups — UCLA Primate Freedom, the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Brigade — and the five most obnoxious, above-ground activists.
Those five are Kevin Olliff, Ramin Saber, Linda Greene, Hillary Roney and Tim Rusmisel. They have often appeared at the homes of UCLA researchers, where they’ve been videotaped by UCLA police leading chants like “Burn the fuckers to the ground!” and “We know where you sleep at night!”
The injunction, which UCLA hopes to make permanent next February, was a minor victory. It stipulated that all animal-rights protesters had to stay 50 feet away from researchers’ homes during the day and could come no closer than 150 feet at night. The three groups were also barred from posting the home addresses, telephone numbers and other personal information of UCLA researchers on their Web sites, including Barnes’ UCLAprimatefreedom.com.
The legal action has had an impact. “Since the injunction went into effect, there has been a reduction in demonstrations outside the homes of faculty members,” spokesman Hampton tells the Weekly. “I can’t say that’s specifically because of the injunction, but we have noticed a decrease.”
Ramin Saber’s recent activity would seem to suggest he’s right. The 36 year old, once a regular face at protests, has been absent for “a while,” says Saber, who explains he has “been busy doing other things. I had to take a short break from protesting.”
He says the drop in protesting at UCLA has nothing to do with the restraining order, but admits there’s been a drop in “the actual number of activists available and the availability of organizers and legal observers.” He insists UCLA has not shut them up. “I have not been protesting in a while. That will change.”
* As originally published in print, this article incorrectly stated that www.UCLAprimatefreedom.com currently provides personal information on UCLA researchers.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.