ACLU Files Civil Rights Suit Filed Against City of Shreveport for Violation of PETA Protesters' Free Speech Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
May 29, 2002 12:00 am


ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Louisiana
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SHREVEPORT, LA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, going to bat again for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Shreveport and six of its police officers for civil rights violations stemming from the wrongful arrest of three activists during a demonstration against circus animal abuse last year. The lawsuit seeks damages and other sanctions against the city on behalf of the three individuals who were falsely arrested, imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted.

PETA Tiger-lady

Cynthia “Tiger Lady” Lieberman Protesting Cruelty to Circus Animals

“”The peaceful and legitimate protesters in this case didn’t belong behind bars. They should have gotten the full protection of the law by the named police officers, who instead treated them like common criminals and threw them in jail,”” according to Joe Cook, Executive Director for the ACLU of Louisiana. “”On the other hand, Municipal Judge LaLeshia Walker Alford deserves praise for ruling on March 11, 2002, that the defendants, who are now plaintiffs, were lawfully exercising their free speech rights.””

On May 29, 2001, PETA’s “”Tiger Lady,”” wearing only a thong, pasties, and body-painted tiger stripes planned to protest circus animal abuse by crouching in a small cage with a sign reading, “”Wild Animals Don’t Belong Behind Bars.”” Instead, she was arrested, along with two fellow activists on charges of obstructing public passage, and for performing an obscene act even before the start of their protest. It was slated in advance of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus appearance in the area.

“”The police stopped us from informing people that in order to force animals to perform stressful acts, like jumping through fire, trainers use whips, muzzles, electric prods, and bullhooks that pierce the sensitive skin behind an elephant’s thighs, ears, and knees. Between acts, elephants are kept chained, and bears and tigers are ‘stored’ in cages barely large enough for them to turn around in,”” said Matthew Penzer, PETA’s legal counsel. “”A successful lawsuit would ensure that the next time the circus comes to town, we’ll be free to ‘expose’ the animal suffering under the big top.””

ACLU Cooperating Attorney Henry Walker of Shreveport is litigating the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. A legal brief in the case is available online at /Files/Files.cfm?ID=10410&c=184.

For more information on cruelty to circus animals please visit PETA’s web site www.circuses.com.

For more information on the ACLU’s work to protect free speech rights, visit /FreeSpeech/FreeSpeechMain.cfm.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

The Latest in Free Speech

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Free Speech

Free Speech issue image

Protecting free speech means protecting a free press, the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more. The ACLU has worked since 1920 to ensure that freedom of speech is protected for everyone.