For Immediate Release:
November 15, 2006
For additional information:
Local Animal Rights Activist Found “Not Guilty”
Police raid high school student’s home – judge says cops should have done their homework
Santa Monica, CA – A seventeen year-old animal rights activist was found “not guilty” today in a Santa Monica juvenile courtroom after a judge determined that police officers had failed in proving that the high school student violated a local noise ordinance while protesting outside the home of a POM Wonderful employee.
Activists maintain that the fruit juice company, POM Wonderful, engages in cruel and unnecessary experiments on animals in an effort to exhort the supposed health benefits of pomegranate juice. Currently, the FDA does not require that animal tests be conducted in order for health claims to be made about food products.
The alleged misdemeanor noise violation occurred during a September protest. At previous protests, the animal rights activists were the subject of violent attacks by neighbors and associates of POM employees. The demonstrators were punched, choked, and had their vehicles vandalized while police officers were nearby. The SMPD has yet to make any arrests in the attacks which the activists captured on video.
Lt. Mike Beautz of the Santa Monica Police Department argued that they were just seeking a “slap on the wrist” for the noise violation, but on October 31st Beautz and other officers raided the homes of the underage defendant and six other activists. During the raids, detectives seized animal rights t-shirts, posters, flyers, cameras, laptops, signs, and any other political or “animal rights paraphernalia,” according to affidavits.
The “not guilty” verdict comes on the heels of the passage of a controversial bill in Washington called the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”— a bill that civil liberties groups fear will chill free speech activities. Under the new law, animal rights activists could face severe penalties and prison time should an “animal enterprise” suffer economic loss from non-violent activities such as those alleged in court on Wednesday.
“This is a classic case of David versus Goliath, of Big Business versus ‘the little guy,’” states Justin Hand, one of the activists whose home was raided. “POM conducts experiments that have involved inducing severe brain injuries in mice and hardening of the arteries in others. They’re a ruthless company and their lawsuit is without merit so they’re relying on an overzealous police department to wage a campaign of intimidation against non-violent activists. Aside from the animals, the only victims of violence and vandalism have been us.”
POM employees have been the subject of a total of three demonstrations and after failing on two occasions to obtain restraining orders against the protestors, POM Wonderful proceeded with a lawsuit against the small group of activists.