Animal rights group claims harassment

Vehicles stopped by police in 6 cities following the torch

Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002

The Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT)

By Nesreen Khashan

SALT LAKE CITY – An animal rights group following the Olympic flame on its cross-country trip to Utah is claiming harassment by Games officials.

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition held a news conference Friday at the Salt Lake County downtown library to show a videotape the group says proves their claims. The footage shows the animal rights vehicle being stopped by police in six cities as it followed the torch relay caravan.

The video shows police officers stopping or diverting the truck, said Salt Lake attorney Brian Barnard.

"You are in six different cities and there are police officers acting similarly. That seems to tell me that somebody has gone to the police department."

Barnard, a civil rights attorney, said the group may file a federal lawsuit against the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and the police agencies if the alleged harassment continues. The lawsuit would accuse SLOC and the police of denying the animal rights protesters their rights to free speech.

SLOC President Mitt Romney said the claim made by UARC was "a case of the pot calling the kettle black," referring to an animal rights protester chaining himself to the door of the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland this week.

While not addressing the specific allegations made by UARC, Romney added that as general policy, protesters are not denied the right to stage demonstrations.

"Obviously we recognize the right of people to provide their point of view and to have free speech," Romney said in a prepared statement. "But we also recognize the right of our column of torchbearer vehicles to travel together. It is a protected column with police vehicles."

UARC and other animal rights groups last month announced their intention to tag along the torch route to protest Davis County's Olympic rodeo.

The activists maintain rodeo is cruel to animals and has no place in the world's biggest celebration of humanity. They have been using the torch relay as a vehicle to broadcast the message.

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