The University of California Regents is suing several animal rights organizations in response to protests and harassment of researchers. Such legal tactics works for the Regents before, but internet organizing may make things more difficult.
The regents hope to win a permanent injunction similar to one granted against Last Chance for Animals in 1989. But some experts note that the regents now are battling more violent, Internet-savvy foes who thrive in online communities, post faculty "targets" on Web sites and upload how-to guides for their attacks.
"The reality is that, unlike in the past, where movements really relied on interpersonal communication and gatherings to ferment this radicalization, all this is happening online now," according to Oren Segal, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism in New York. "The ability for people to learn about the movement and how to carry out attacks on behalf of it are easier than it's ever been because of the Internet."
Indeed, a temporary restraining order -- prohibiting harassment and posting of faculty members' personal information on the Internet -- was granted Feb. 21 by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. But three days later, six masked protesters reportedly disrupted a child's birthday party at the home of a University of California at Santa Cruz researcher and confronted her husband at the door, hitting him on the hand.
It is unclear whether the protesters are connected to those named in UC's lawsuit.