Horse Advocates Settle Suit Against Track Owners

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Self-described horse- and animal-rights advocates who sued 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, reached a settlement of their case.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed court papers Tuesday with Los Angeles Superior Court Richard Fruin stating that the case they filed against Stronach Group Ltd. Partnership May 30 was resolved. No terms were divulged.

According to the suit, eight of the plaintiffs attempted to demonstrate and pass out leaflets in the parking lot and public walkways outside the track March 3, but were prevented from doing so and some of their members were battered and imprisoned by track security guards.

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 sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The group carried megaphones and posterboard 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 stated.

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 stated.

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

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 stated.

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

On Oct. 3, Fruin denied a request by the plaintiffs to be allowed to protest in the parking lot, walkways and gate areas of the venue that do not require a ticket during the Breeders' Cup, Nov. 1-2.

In denying the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, the judge said the venue had a legitimate reason in excluding protesters from those private-property areas for the safety of guests and to facilitate traffic. He said the track had provided an area outside gate 5, one of four public gates to the park, where people could gather to publicly express their views.

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