Pinecrest Village staff is expecting a full house Tuesday night at the monthly council meeting when the council will consider an ordinance to restrict protests in residential areas.
The proposed ordinance would ban picketing “before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in the village.” It would also require prior notice of protests by groups of three or more people.
The ordinance was requested by village residents who have been the target in recent years of protests by animal-rights activists Matt and Brooke Block.
The couple, who own a company called Worldwide Primates, a supplier of monkeys for research, requested the ordinance in April, according to an email to Mayor Cindy Lerner.
Worldwide Primates is one of the largest importers of monkeys for research and testing in the United States, including government, university, and pharmaceutical fields. Founded in 1980, it has sold tens of thousands of monkeys to vivisection labs.
The family business is run by the Blocks, along with their son Ira. In 1993, Matt Block was sentenced to 13 months in prison for smuggling endangered baby orangutans in the infamous “Bangkok Six” case.
According to the email to Lerner, when a protest happened outside the Block home, Brooke and other family members waited for it to end at another relative’s house. Protesters followed Brooke to the other residence, also in Pinecrest. When Brooke opened the door, they ambushed her.
“These type of activities have no place in Pinecrest or anywhere else. While we respect the First Amendment, following people around is not the First Amendment. Forcing people to stay locked in their home is not the quality of life one expects in Pinecrest or anywhere else,” Block said in the email.
“I believe a request for an advance permit is not unreasonable, and would certainly allow all parties including our police to be better prepared for such protests, which we anticipate will now increase considerably. It would also prevent surprise protests at the homes of parties not directly involved with a particular matter. It is better to avert a tragedy than have to deal with the mental and legal consequences to one.”
One of the animal-rights organizations to target Matt and Brooke Block has been Smash HLS. Many members have been vocal about having as many people possible attend the meeting on Tuesday.
Worldwide Primates supplies primate sera, plasma, blood, and tissue products from species such as cynomolgus monkeys, rhesus monkeys, baboons, African green monkeys, capuchin and squirrel monkeys.
“The use of monkeys and other animals in experimentation is a subject of public concern,” said Nick Atwood, campaigns coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. “The village of Pinecrest should not help a resident involved in a controversial industry avoid protests. It is even more perplexing that the village is helping Matt Block hide from protesters. Block is a convicted felon who is infamous for smuggling endangered wildlife.”
The proposed ordinance would impact not only animal advocates, but would prevent anyone in Pinecrest from speaking out about issues important to them, Atwood said.
Loud protests would be banned, but also candlelight vigils. Village residents could not protest outside the home of the mayor or the police chief. There are at least two registered sex offenders living in Pinecrest. The ordinance would limit the ability of residents to raise awareness of that, he said.
According to the proposed ordinance, the new law would be for the purpose of “protecting and providing a feeling of well-being, tranquility, privacy and safety for its residents, while narrowly tailoring the prohibitions contained in this ordinance so as to continue protecting the constitutional right of free expression for all individuals.”
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Pinecrest Village Hall at 12645 Pinecrest Pkwy.