Manning Beef, the last cow slaughterhouse remaining in Los Angeles, has sued peaceful activists who hold vigils on the sidewalk outside of the facility for trespass. Today, my office, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Ryan Gordon of Advancing Law for Animals, are fighting back to maintain the rights of activists to speak out.
Starting in January of 2017, animal rights activists operating under the name Los Angeles Cow Save began holding vigils outside of Manning Beef for the cows who are slaughtered there. The activists hold signs, light small candles, and, when transport trucks arrive carrying cows, the activists photographs and videotape the cows' conditions and provide them water through the trucks' ventilation holes.
Manning Beef has twice summoned L.A. County Sheriffs and demanded the sheriffs arrest the activists, insisting that the facility owns the sidewalk and road and that the activists are trespassing by holding vigils on the sidewalk of a public road. Both times the sheriffs refused and allowed the vigils to continue without so much as a warning to the activists.
The activists even contacted the city about Manning Beef's claim and discovered that the facility shares ownership in the road with the city, but the deed reflects an easement for a public road. In addition, hundreds of cars pass over the road every hour, the road has bike lanes, and the road's signage is indistinguishable from every other road in the city. Other businesses operate on the road and a city bus line even runs over it. Nothing indicates any quasi-private ownership or any restriction on public access.
The City Attorney of Pico Rivera informed the activists that the city treats the road as public and they were within their rights to hold their vigils there.
Unable to convince law enforcement to stop the demonstrations, Manning Beef filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles Cow Save, seeking more than $25,000 in damages from the activists as well as a restraining order prohibiting them from holding vigils in the future.
Today, my office filed a motion to strike Manning Beef's lawsuit under the California “anti-SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. The purpose of this statute is to allow activists to dismiss lawsuits that seek punish them for exercising their free speech rights. The motion argues that the lawsuit is meritless because Los Angeles Cow Save’s vigils are a protected form of free speech and are not conducted on private property, despite Manning Beef’s claims. A hearing on the motion is set for May 3, 2017.
To find out more about Los Angeles Cow Save and attend a future vigil, visit their Facebook page.