Some say members of Salt Lake Animal Advocacy Movement often know as much--if not more--about free speech laws and regulations than the officers who shut down their protests. ---If that's true, SLAAM is perhaps set to collect some legal fees from Salt Lake County--and thus, taxpayers.
(photo by Niki Chan Wylie)
SLAAM has filed suit again for one of their protest rallies being shut down, this time suing Unified Police Department, formerly known as the Salt Lake County Sheriff's department.
As I previously reported, SLAAM settled with Morgan County, netting $40,000 for the activists' and their attorney, Brian Barnard, for the illegal interuption of a 2008 protest held there. Also as I previously reported, some say SLAAM members knew more about Salt Lake City's targeted residential picketing ordinance than did the officers who shut-down a protest and used that ordinance to cite several of the protesters. A few were convicted in that Salt Lake case--and are appealing--but several were also acquitted by a jury. The fate of that ordinance is still in question as those who are appealing plan to challenge its constitutionality in district court.
They don't always win, but SLAAM and its predecessor animal-rights groups here in Utah have scored numerous five-figure settlements from cities and counties over the last decade regarding free speech rights--and their settlements are only a portion of public money spent. For those who don't know how civil rights lawsuits work: Police use tax-payer funded authority to shut down protests, a tax-payer funded federal judge reviews the complaint from the protesters, tax-payer funded attorneys defend the police action, and if things go sour for the cops, more tax money is paid to the civil rights attorney who proves the police were the ones breaking the law--not the protesters.
Remember, UPD is the same force that had so many of its residents completely ticked at new "fees" for service.
Will SLAAM prove their protest was legal and thus UPD acted illegally? Time will tell. To read the lawsuit, click here (pdf).
I called UPD last week requesting a comment and received no call in return. If they call to comment, I'll update the post.
Update 6-2-10 9:06 AM: The commenter makes me realize I should/could have been more clear. The new lawsuit stems from a protest outside the Fur Breeders Agricultural Coop in Sandy, not a residential picket.