Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Raucous Protesters Target Family

Rallies at the home of a Monrovia man oppose his firm's alleged ties to animal research.

June 28, 2004|Stephanie Chavez | Times Staff Writer

Mitchell Lardner didn't pay much attention to an April 8 company memo alerting him and other employees of Sumitomo Corp. of America that they could be the targets of "home protests" from animal rights activists who believe the firm has ties to animal research.

This won't affect him, Lardner reasoned. He's just a mid-level manager, and he believed it when his company said it had no such links.

But two weeks later Lardner woke up to find that vandals had spray painted "Puppy Killer," and "You Can't Hide" on the walls of his historic Monrovia house, the former residence of novelist Upton Sinclair. Later that night a dozen masked protesters with bullhorns marched out front, yelling, "Mitchell Lardner kills 500 puppies a day!"

On Sunday night, about 25 protesters marched through Lardner's neighborhood, but stayed a block away, and then walked through Old Town Monrovia shouting his address and carrying pictures of a bleeding dog. The Sunday evening protest is part of what they said is a long-term campaign against Lardner.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 30, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 99 words Type of Material: Correction
Monrovia protests -- In an article in Monday's California section about animal rights protests in Monrovia, a woman speaking on behalf of a group called Coalition to Help Animals Through Responsible Mediation gave her name as Emmeline Pankhurst. The woman said Monday in a telephone interview that Emmeline Pankhurst is not her real name, and she did not want to provide her name because she wanted to avoid lawsuits against her. Emmeline Pankhurst was the name of a leader of the suffragette movement in Great Britain. A subsequent reference to the woman misspelled the last name as Prankhurst.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 30, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 98 words Type of Material: Correction
Monrovia protests -- In an article in Monday's California section about animal rights protests in Monrovia, a woman speaking on behalf of a group called Coalition to Help Animals Through Responsible Mediation gave her name as Emmeline Pankhurst. The woman said Monday in a telephone interview that Emmeline Pankhurst is not her real name, and she did not want to provide her name because she wanted to avoid lawsuits against her. Emmeline Pankhurst was the name of a leader of the suffragette movement in Great Britain. A subsequent reference to the woman misspelled the last name as Prankhurst.

"It's been weeks of anxiety and absolute fear," said Lardner, whose wife and two small children have been propelled into what they call a surreal existence, saying they feel like virtual hostages in their home. They are under the watch of 24-hour security guards, live behind draped and papered windows, and are protected by a host of security devices.

"I couldn't even make this up," said Kathleen Lardner. "When I try and explain this to people I sound like a nut. It's so bizarre."

Her husband adds, "As a target for animal rights activists, I'm absolutely the wrong person."

But the activists believe otherwise. They said that, denials or not, there is at least a tangential tie between animal research and Lardner's employer, through a tangle of corporate entities in the United States and Japan.

And, they say, that's reason enough to make Lardner -- whose California-based job is to find investors for high-tech start-ups -- a valuable target in their campaign. They picked Lardner because he has just the right combination of attention-grabbing requisites, said Emmeline Pankhurst, 25, a member of the Coalition to Help Animals Through Resistance and Mobilization, the group she said is behind the protests.

Lardner lives in a historic home that people don't want vandalized. Monrovia residents pride themselves on their small-town activism and have turned out to confront protesters, calling police and turning the demonstrations into even bigger events. Nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains and easily accessible from the Foothill Freeway, the house is a convenient location for activists from Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The nighttime protests by masked pickets have so angered neighbors that they demanded City Hall do something to stop them. Earlier this month the City Council passed an ordinance regulating pickets in front of homes, a move that further fueled passions.

"When you go to someone's office, it's not personal ... but when you go to their home it's personal and unbearable," Pankhurst said. "This is a big ordeal in Monrovia.... It only increases the pressure on Mitch."

Such home protests have gained in popularity around the country, and animal rights websites encourage the practice by publishing the names and addresses of employees who they believe work for companies that have ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British-based firm that conducts animal research.

Last month seven members of an animal rights organization who aim to shut down a Huntingdon affiliate in New Jersey were charged in a federal indictment for allegedly conducting a campaign to "terrorize officers, employees and shareholders" of the company, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

The group is known as SHAC, for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, and operates a website that posted an article describing vandalism at the Lardner home: "Mitch's house was repainted in red by anonymous activists to symbolize that he had been marked responsible for the death of countless animals."

Other Protests

After nine months of similar demonstrations at his Santa Monica house, Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Jerry Greenwalt, 63, announced in March that he was stepping down from his post, although he said his departure was not related to the protests. Among other things, vandals had spray painted "murderer" on his car to protest what they said were the unacceptable number of dog and cat deaths in animal shelters. The group also picketed in front of the San Pedro home of Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn.

The activists targeting Lardner hope that they will wear him down and that his neighbors will become so upset with the protests that he will quit his job or try to influence his company to sever the ties they say it has to animal research.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|