Digital News Report- The four animal rights protestors who have been accused of harassing UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz medical researchers plead not guilty today. In addition to several protests in front of researchers homes, DNA has connected them to an attack in Santa Cruz, where a researchers husband was struck in the head.
The four protestors, Maryam Khajavi of Pinole, Joseph Buddenberg of Berkeley, Adriana Stumpo of Long Beach and Nathan Pope of Oceanside, face up to five years in prison under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006. Their attorney’s claimed that they were exercising their free speech rights.
“I am a victim of free-speech suppression,” Khajavi, 20, of Pinole said after entering her not-guilty plea in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
In July, Buddenberg and Pope were videotaped posting flyers at a Café Pergolesi that contained researchers’ home addresses and the message: “Animal abusers everywhere beware we know where you live.” Pope and Stumpo were taped two days earlier downloading personal information of the researchers at a Kinko’s. Shortly after the flyers were posted, two homes were firebombed.
“We will vigorously defend her right to dissent,” said famed lawyer J. Tony Serra, who represents Khajavi. “The government would be better off going after those who torture animals than idealistic youth.”
The Animal Terrorism Enterprise Act was co-sponsored by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She cited a number of violent protests at California research facilities, including a string of attacks at UC-San Francisco between 2001 and 2005.