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Beaverton council favors ban on residential picketing

Animal rights activists have protested outside Beaverton man's home for past year


“We're gonna get this done.”

That was Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle's vow after a public hearing on a pair of proposed ordinances that would curtail protesting and loud noises in residential areas.

The Beaverton City Council is entertaining a major update to its noise ordinance, as well as a new ordinance against “targeted picketing” near residences, following months of protests that residents say have disrupted their Five Oaks neighborhood.

Since early last year, No New Animal Lab, a group formed to oppose the construction of a proposed animal research facility at the University of Washington in Seattle, has been mounting a protest campaign outside the home of David Schmidt, an executive with Skanska USA, which is contracted to build the facility.

“My family and my neighbors have been subjected to 50 visits — actually, over 50 visits — by the protesters,” Schmidt's wife Gretchen told the City Council during the public hearing on Tuesday.

She said her family's home life on Northwest Torrey Pines Court has been disrupted by loud protesting, including the use of bullhorns and sirens, even on holidays.

News posts on No New Animal Lab's website describe some of the protest activity, including photos of what is purportedly Schmidt looking out his window.

No representatives from No New Animal Lab spoke at Wednesday's public hearing, and the only testimony the council heard was strongly in favor of the ordinances. Eight of Schmidt's neighbors also spoke in support, and several more submitted testimony by email to the council.

The picketing ordinance being proposed would prohibit “targeted picketing” within 250 feet of a residence in the city and would allow “any person who is aggrieved” by a violation of the ordinance to bring a lawsuit against the violators.

The amended noise ordinance, which Assistant City Attorney Grace Wong said would update a section of the city code first adopted in 1967, would prohibit “unreasonably loud or raucous noise.”

Gretchen Schmidt criticized No New Animal Lab for mounting a “pressure campaign” outside her home.

“We feel terrorized and threatened because we are not sure what they will do next,” she said. “Residential picketing does not have a place in Beaverton when it is meant to threaten and limit our rights as property-owners to the full enjoyment of our homes.”

Doyle and the councilors present said they support the proposed ordinances, which they aim to adopt next month.

“I really thank you for coming out, and I'm really sorry that this happened,” Councilor Betty Bode told the audience. “But I'm glad we have the resources, and we're committed to wrapping this up as fast as we can.”

City Attorney Bill Kirby said the ordinances can be passed under an emergency clause, which would allow them to take effect immediately upon adoption.

However, Councilor Marc San Soucie cautioned the residents in attendance that the ordinances may not stop the protest activity altogether.

“I think even after we pass this ordinance, the constitution of the state of Oregon and the United States will still allow certain kinds of protest activities to take place,” he said. “My hope is that by making that less productive for the protesters, maybe they'll just give up and move on somewhere else. That would be really sweet if that happens. But some of the things that have been bothering you may still be permitted under the Oregon Constitution, in spite of what we do with this ordinance. Hopefully, we can get rid of the most aggravating parts and cross our fingers. We'll see what happens with the protesters.”

Beaverton's public hearing came one week after Sherwood adopted the first ordinance against residential picketing in the state on Feb. 9. Another Skanska executive and his family have been the subject of similar protests in that city.

While such ordinances are novel in Oregon, Wong told the council, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld similar ordinances in other states.