• Construction company executives get restraining order against animal activist

    By: Natasha Chen

    Updated:

    SEATTLE, Wash. - Executives with the construction company building the new University of Washington animal lab have obtained a restraining order against one animal activist -- after protesters staged several demonstrations at the executives’ eastside homes.

    Activist Amanda Schemkes said the group targeted Skanska executives in addition to the University of Washington president and board of regents, asking them to break their contract on the project.

    “They are the decision-makers. And when you are engaged in a protest campaign, as a grass-roots movement, just made up of the people, it’s important to be able to reach those people in power,” Schemkes said.

    She said their calls and emails have to Skanska offices have gone unanswered.

    Construction has begun on the new lab, which opponents say will result in the torture of animals.

    Chris Toher, the executive vice president and general manager for Skanska, said in a complaint that the activists were on private property and harassed him and his family.

    In the complaint, Toher said he received “numerous phone calls in which the individuals scream into the phone.”

    He also said the protests were “designed to seriously alarm, annoy, and harass me, as well as my family.”

    A Skanska spokesperson told KIRO 7:

    “Skanska fully supports the right to legitimate and lawful First Amendment expression. What has occurred at the homes of some employees is harassment and intimidation of families. Our employees intend to enforce the court’s anti-harassment order per its terms and Skanska supports its employees’ efforts to protect their families from such conduct.

    "Regarding the project itself, Skanska was selected by the University of Washington because of our ability to safely and effectively manage construction of their new facility. Work on the project is under way and on schedule.”

    Schemkes said they typically begin their demonstrations by first asking for a conversation by knocking on the person’s door.

    When they receive no answer, they move to the public sidewalk. She is appealing the court decision on her restraining order. Her appeal will be heard in October.

    Students at the University of Washington told KIRO 7 they felt protesting at private homes was too much.

    “They’re just doing their job. And there’s somebody else who’s hiring them to do this job, so maybe they should talk to those people,” said Jeremy Pyke.

    Activists have gone to the homes of the university president and regents as well. The university has so far not taken any action against activists for those protests.

    “What we’re asking of the construction company Skanska is to break their contract with the UW and say that they’re not going to participate in building this. And the decision, yes, will ultimately go back to the UW,” Schemkes said.

    Schemkes said the rest of the protesters will continue demonstrations at another private home this Sunday, and they will have a protest at the university next Friday, May 29.

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