First Amendment Cited in Demand for Campaigner's Two-Year Ban From School Grounds to Be Rescinded
For Immediate Release:
October 19, 2018
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
College Station, Texas – PETA’s attorney has sent a letter on behalf of PETA campaigner Matt Bruce demanding that Texas A&M University (TAMU) rescind the two-year ban it issued against him for chalking a message on a public sidewalk.
On August 27, 2018, PETA staffer Bruce and a student activist used water-soluble chalk to write “Shut the Dog Lab Down Now” outside a TAMU library as part of PETA’s campaign against the TAMU laboratory where dogs are deliberately bred to suffer from muscular dystrophy. Although the university has designated sidewalks a “traditional public forum,” with full First Amendment protections, eight TAMU police officers detained Bruce for an hour and issued a “criminal trespass warning” banning him from school property for two years. Although other chalk messages outside the library were left undisturbed, his was removed within an hour after the police arrived.
“By arresting Matt Bruce without probable cause and preventing him from speaking out against its cruel dog laboratory, Texas A&M has violated his constitutional rights,” says Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA. “If the school won’t revoke this unlawful trespass warning, PETA is prepared to take all appropriate legal actions to protect Mr. Bruce’s First Amendment rights.”
Since releasing video footage showing dogs in TAMU’s laboratories struggling to walk, swallow, and even breathe, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—has taken several legal actions against the school. In May, the group filed a suit challenging its censorship of free speech through the use of a filter on its official Facebook page that automatically deletes visitor posts and comments if they contain words such as “PETA,” “cruelty,” and “lab.” On June 28, PETA filed a suit to compel the university to disclose public records related to the rumored closure of the dog laboratory, and on August 8, the group filed a suit to require that the school disclose records that document breeding and the births of puppies for use in experiments in the laboratory.
The letter to TAMU is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.