Animal-rights advocates are suing Santa Anita

LOS ANGELES — Nine self-described horse and animal-rights advocates are suing the owners of Santa Anita Park, alleging their constitutional rights were violated when guards prevented most of them from protesting horse deaths at the facility.

Eight of the plaintiffs attempted to demonstrate and pass out leaflets in the parking lot and public walkways outside of the track on March 3, but were prevented from doing so and some of their members were battered and imprisoned by track security guards, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Thursday against Stronach Group Ltd. Partnership.

The ninth Plaintiff, Dina Kourda, contacted Santa Anita Park representatives to request information on how she could lawfully hand out leaflets promoting a plant-based diet, but was denied any details from the park’s community services office, the suit states.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as an injunction allowing the public to assemble and demonstrate outside the park.

Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman told City News Service he had not heard anything about the suit before being shown a copy and that he would forward it on to management for possible comment.

Since the current racing season began in late December, 26 horses have died at Santa Anita. Eight of the plaintiffs went to the park to protest the park’s “business decision to place profits over the rights, dignity, and welfare of horses,” the suit states.

The group carried megaphones and signs with slogans that denounced the park and one plaintiff wore a body camera-type video recording device that hung from her neck, the suit states. Two groups of security guards blocked the plaintiffs as they tried to walk toward the admissions area, but did not try to prevent access to other members of the public, the suit states.

A park employee who was not in a security guard uniform grabbed one plaintiff by one arm, removed her camera and threw it to the ground, the suit states. A guard then handcuffed her, the suit states.

The same two employees ripped a sign from another plaintiff who also was handcuffed, the suit states. Three plaintiffs who tried to record what was happening to their two colleagues were blocked from doing so by guards using their hands and bodies, the suit states.

Three plaintiffs were later cited by Arcadia police for allegedly trespassing, but no charges were filed, the suit states.

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