MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A settlement in lawsuit brought by three animal rights advocates concerning space to demonstrate at the Miami Sequarium will make it easier for protesters to speak to patrons and hand out leaflets.
“I am very happy that we now have an agreement that makes clear what we knew all along,” said Jeff Geragi, one of the plaintiffs, who has organized demonstrations outside the Seaquarium. “Everyone has a right to make our voices heard, and the police can’t restrict that right just because some might not be comfortable with what we have to say.”
The agreement announced Monday ends a so-called “red zone” in which the Miami-Dade Police Department restricted protesters’ access to 40 feet of public sidewalk outside the attraction’s entrance. The policy was challenged on First Amendment grounds by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Another plaintiff, Steven Bagenski, was arrested in August , 2014 for standing in the sidewalk in the “red zone” while holding a protest sign. The officer who arrested Bagenski was one of the named defendants in the lawsuit.
In addition to terminating the red zone policy, the county paid Bagenski $1,330 to settle the case.
“I feel like an injustice is finally being corrected,” said Bagenski. “When I was arrested for exercising my First Amendment rights, I was shocked. I’m glad that we now have an agreement that makes clear it was wrong.”
There are regular protests at the Seaquarium near Key Biscayne chiefly over its star attraction, the orca Lolita.
A separate lawsuit seeks Lolita’s release after decades in captivity to a controlled environment in her native Pacific Ocean off the northwest U.S.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)