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UC-backed bill would restrict animal rights activists

April 16, 2008 | 11:00 am

University of California officials are backing a state bill that would crack down on recent attacks by animal rights activists targeting animal researchers' homes.

The bill, introduced by Bay Area Assemblyman Gene Mullin, would restrict public access to personal information of animal researchers, including names, home addresses and photographs, the Mercury News reports.

There would also be a criminal provision, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

The legislation, AB2296, would also prohibit attempts to injure or intimidate animal researchers or interfere with their work, making such acts a misdemeanor punishable by as long as a year in jail and fines as high as $25,000.

UC Berkeley's Daily Californian quotes animal rights attorney Christine Garcia saying the bill would unlawfully censor the free speech of animal rights protesters.

But Steven Beckwith, UC vice president for research, said this legislation is necessary because some demonstrators have crossed the line of civilized protest and free speech.

"As a university, we really cherish free speech," Beckwith said. "So free speech is not the issue. The issue is violence. In particular, we don't tolerate terrorism."

The bill comes after a series of animal rights attacks at several UC campuses in recent months...

...In February, a home owned by UCLA professor Edythe London was firebombed, prompting a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to grant the UCLA faculty a restraining order against several animal groups. In October, activists flooded London's home with a garden hose.

Also in February, six masked people tried to force their way into the home of a UC Santa Cruz researcher. When the researcher's husband emerged, he was hit on the head, authorities said.

Mullin's bill is expected to be heard in a state Assembly committee Thursday.

-- Tony Barboza

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