Picketing: A Merry Christmas Tradition

The Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance last week intended to stop animal rights activists from harassing University of Utah researchers with regular picket lines in front of their homes. But a different group of activists is suing because they say the new law silences their Christmas tradition of free speech:

“In the past couple of years at Christmas time, they’ve gone to the Governor’s Mansion and sung parodies of Christmas carols to bring home the issue of poverty,” says Barnard.

Attorney Brian Barnard filed suit in federal court Wednesday against Salt Lake City on behalf of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee. The new ordinance prohibits picketing within 100 feet of a private residence, and Barnard says that applies to the Governor’s Mansion.

“The way I read the ordinance, it’s broad enough that it covers any kind of targeted demonstration in front of a residence,” says Barnard. “The Governor’s Mansion is a high profile building and it’s an appropriate place to go communicate with the Governor.”

Barnard believes the City Council drafted the ordinance hastily and under pressure from the University of Utah. A spokesman for the animal rights group Utah Primate Freedom says it, too, will file a lawsuit for the right to picket the homes of university researchers.

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