PETA and two supporters in Salt Lake City filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today against two Utah Transit Authority police officers alleging violations of free speech rights. The complaint states that the PETA members were handing out leaflets about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to commuter train passengers in a public area when the officers ordered them to leave or face charges for trespassing. While the activists reluctanctly left as ordered, they are now pursuing legal action to protect their free speech rights to educate potential circusgoers about the circus’s long history of animal abuse.
Elephants used by Ringling—which recently received the biggest penalty for animal welfare violations in circus history—are chained inside filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours straight and are routinely beaten in order to force them to perform confusing and unnatural tricks.
If the circus is coming to your town, exercise your right to free speech! Just be sure to contact city officials ahead of any leafleting or other outreach event to determine whether you need a permit. Contact PETA’s Action Team to get help organizing local outreach.