Utah police intimidated animal-rights activists and blamed them for pig farm layoffs, lawsuit says

Activists want an injunction barring Beaver County officers from harassing or threatening them.


By Leto Sapunar, The Salt Lake Tribune (UT)

Aug. 3, 2022  


As Beaver residents celebrated Pioneer Day at a weekend festival, animal-rights activists with Direct Action Everywhere set up a table to ask passersby: “Have you heard about the Smithfield trial?”


Smithfield Foods is the county’s largest employer — and the group wanted to discuss the upcoming trial of two members who are accused of stealing two piglets from Smithfield’s Circle Four Farms.


Newly released cellphone video shows Beaver County Sheriff’s Sgt. Warren Woolsey confronting the activists, connecting Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) to Smithfield’s recent announcement that it will reduce production in Utah and lay off an undisclosed number of workers.


“Do you realize that your company caused a problem in our community?” Woolsey asked, according to a July 23 recording by Curtis Vollmar, a DxE organizer, and cited in a new lawsuit. “... Do you realize you’re not wanted in this community and you’ve been asked to leave?”


Vollmar later says in the recording: “All of this for handing out some flyers.”


And Woolsey replies: “All of this because your group has been a direct influence on shutting down Smithfield Foods. ... There’s a lot of people that have lost their jobs. And you come into this community and pour salt into the wounds of the people that have lost their jobs.”


Free speech lawsuit


Now, Vollmar and two other activists, with DxE and Utah Animal Rights Coalition, have filed a lawsuit alleging that the sheriff’s office violated their free speech rights. They’re also asking a federal judge to bar Beaver County and its officers from threatening to arrest or cite them as they return to the community to do outreach in public spaces in the weeks leading up to the trial.


“Like a bad B-movie, defendants literally told plaintiffs they were ‘not wanted’ in their county and to leave town,” attorney Karra Porter wrote in the lawsuit...


What is the ‘Smithfield trial’? ... 


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