Yesterday Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley recognized the right of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to demonstrate outside of a Menomonee Valley slaughterhouse, despite the objections of city alderman Bob Donovan. A permit has been issued to the group for this afternoon's demonstration.
“The ACLU is pleased that City Attorney Grant Langley did not cave in to pressure from Alderman Bob Donovan’s attempts to squelch the demonstration," said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. "As the City Attorney correctly observed, the government may impose reasonable limits on the time, place and manner of protests, but may not prohibit them because of their content. In this case, the protesters posed as cuts of meat on platters, with fake blood on their bodies."
More details on the protest's purpose and the controversy can be found in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
“While people may disagree with PETA’s message and their sometimes controversial tactics, the First Amendment clearly protects just this sort of expressive activity," said Ahmuty. "As the Supreme Court said in United States v. Eichman, even words and expressive conduct that are ‘deeply offensive to many’ are nonetheless protected by the First Amendment."
The Supreme Court said more than 60 years ago in Terminiello v. Chicago that the "function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects... [T]he alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups."
“Alderman Donovan has a right to express his disagreement with PETA and their methods, and he certainly doesn’t have to watch their protest if he finds in unpleasant, but he doesn’t have a right to trample on the Constitution,” said Ahmuty.