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ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of animal activists facing charges after protest outside Lagoon

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Posted at 9:04 PM, Sep 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 09:17:51-04

FARMINGTON, Utah -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two animal rights activists facing misdemeanor charges for protesting outside Lagoon last month.

The lawsuit was filed against the city of Farmington Tuesday.

The conflict began last month when animal rights activists were cited for protesting on a public sidewalk across from the theme park. The protesters say they were exercising their free speech rights while city officials content they needed a permit.

ACLU officials say Farmington City’s code requiring permits is a violation of the First Amendment because permits cost $50 and the requirements for permits are too vague.

“The First Amendment is one of our biggest concerns at the ACLU and when we hear about someone getting criminally cited for expressing themselves on a sidewalk that really does reach our concerns,” said ACLU spokesman John Mejia.

Animal rights activists are facing misdemeanor charges, which they say could land them in jail for six months for protesting on public property.

Jeremy Beckham, one of two protesters facing charges, said the protesters were outside Lagoon protesting against animal treatment inside the park.

Beckham said he was surprised by the charges.

“Voicing your opinion is what this country is about and the city of Farmington isn’t a constitution-free zone and I’m pretty optimistic about our chances of prevailing,” Beckham said.

Farmington City Manager Dave Millheim said they don’t have a problem with free speech and they wouldn’t have filed charges except the protesters never even tried to obtain a permit.

Millheim said the city is looking into repealing the current permit law. He added the lawsuit is a waste of time.

“I’ve already suggested to the county attorney based off the uncertainty of the ordinance, that they should dismiss the charges,” Millheim said. “The charges were only filed because they openly flaunted their desire not to comply. We tried to get them to come in but they said, ‘we don’t want to come in and talk to you.’