SCRANTON – Today, a federal judge ordered the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority to allow animal rights protesters at the Mohegan Sun Arena to leaflet outside the fenced pen used by the Authority to confine protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and lawyers from Saul Ewing LLP filed suit on April 15 on behalf of Silvie Pomicter, a local animal rights activist, and Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation, asking the court to allow the protesters to mingle with patrons attending circus performances at the arena from April 28 to May 1, 2016.
The order issued by the Honorable Robert D. Mariani of the United States District Court strikes a balance between the plaintiffs’ right to protest and the ability of patrons to enter and leave the arena easily. Twenty individual protesters may circulate among the patrons as they cross the wide sidewalks leading to the arena doors, but protesters holding signs or standing in groups must stay in the area designated by the Arena. Protesters cannot cross a 35-foot buffer that marks off the doors and ticket windows, approach patrons who are already in line or who are in the parking lot.
This circus tour is of particular importance to animal rights activists because Ringling Bros. has announced this will be the last tour using elephant performers. Pomicter, LCA, and other animal rights activists have protested the use of all animals by circuses, and the use of elephants in particular, for many years. Pomicter has been an animal rights activist for over thirty years, and is president of Voice of the Animals.
At a hearing before Judge Mariani on Monday, Pomicter explained that being confined to a pen made it difficult to speak to patrons and severely limited the activists’ ability to hand out literature. “In 31 years of protesting, I have never before had to stand in a cage. This is the United States of America, not North Korea. We should not be treated like criminals for speaking out,” said Pomicter.
“Leafletting is not dangerous, it is a time-honored way of advocating for causes, starting with the American Revolution,” said Mary Catherine Roper, one of the lawyers on the case. “We are pleased the court refused to cage speech.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of ACLU-PA and Alexander Bilus and Amy Kline of Saul Ewing LLP. The lawsuit,Pomicter and Last Chance for Animals v. Luzerne County Convention Center Authority and SMG, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
More information about the case, including copies of the lawsuit and today's decision are available at: www.aclupa.org/pomicter