Protesters and Santa Monica police gathered on Sunday, April 8, outside the home of UCLA Professor Nelson Freimer in the 400 block of 12th Street. Although there was a great deal of commotion, SMPD Lt. Alex Padilla described it as “a peaceful protest” and reported that “no arrests were made.” No one was injured.
Dr. Freimer is the director of a UCLA lab whose website describes it as “focused mainly on identifying the genetic basis of neurobehavioral traits.” The protesters claimed that he “is an animal experimenter (vivisector)” who “imprisons and tortures non-human primates,” and the 12 to 15 protesters picketed his home carrying signs to that effect. Protesters also picketed Dr. Freimer’s home on March 18 and two were arrested – for disturbing the peace, according to the police department; “for noise violations,” according to the protesters’ press liaison Pamelyn Ferdin.
Although Dr. Freimer was not available for comment, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research, Roberto Peccei, issued a statement to the Mirror in which he said, “Four times in the past six months, UCLA Professor Nelson Freimer and his family have been subjected to demonstrations at their home by a small group of animal rights extremists. The first three visits included loud and vocal harassment of Professor Freimer and his family, including obscenities, physical threats and dissemination of lies about his research.”
In the aftermath of the April 8 demonstration, “seeyouinthestreets” issued a press release criticizing police conduct as “a ludicrous over-reaction, at taxpayer expense” to the picketing, and as “ongoing extreme and unlawful actions taken against animal activists in the City of Santa Monica.” The release quoted “senior activist” Coby Siegenthaler as saying, “I was terrified by all the police surrounding the car and being so nasty, condescending and demeaning to activists who weren’t doing anything wrong.”
Literature distributed by the protesters (“UCLA Vivisector Killing monkeys for Profit”) accuses Dr. Freimer of “depriving primates of water,” “separat[ing] mothers and their infants, causing them severe anxiety,” and “conduct[ing] gruesome vision experiments tracking the frantic gaze of primates who have metal coils implanted in their eyes…”
(Reporter’s note: “vivisection,” depending on what dictionary one consults, can mean anything from “cutting into or dissecting a living body” to “otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research.”)
The UCLA Vice Chancellor’s statement sought “to refute the mischaracterization of Professor Freimer’s work and the unwarranted personal attacks on his character and professional reputation.” The statement continued: “Professor Freimer is internationally recognized for his research on mental illnesses. He conducts groundbreaking genetic research that creates opportunities for important scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of and ability to prevent and treat human diseases, and his research has minimal impact on research animals. Contrary to statements made by animal rights demonstrators, Professor Freimer does not keep monkeys in small cages, he does not separate mothers from infants, he does not deprive monkeys of water and he is not involved in any procedures that cause pain and suffering to the animals. Like many other unfounded and malicious statements bandied about by animal activists, these lies are meant to turn public opinion against animal research.”