- Associated Press - Thursday, July 20, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A group of Wisconsin residents says the state’s hunter harassment law stifles free speech and is suing state officials in federal court.

Joseph Brown, Louis Weisberg and Stephanie Losse filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Western District Court of Wisconsin on Monday against Gov. Scott Walker, state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp and Attorney General Brad Schimel, Wisconsin Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2ttz0QX ) reported.

The group is seeking an injunction to prevent enforcement of the law, which prohibits people from repeatedly bothering hunters. It also makes it illegal to film, record or photograph hunters on multiple occasions.

Losse is part of a group called Wolf Patrol, which documents wolf kills in the state. Killing wolves was declared illegal in Wisconsin in 2014. Brown, an assistant professor at Marquette University, has filmed the group’s activity.

The complaint said they won’t be able to continue their work because of fear of civil and criminal liability.

Matthew Liebman, director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said there are already laws in place to prevent harassment and that the law restricts the free speech rights of activists.

The law is similar to ones that have been passed in other states that prohibit activists from filming animal agriculture practices, Liebman said. Federal courts have found such laws unconstitutional.

“You do have a right to approach someone and try to engage them in conversation, and that’s really at the heart of the First Amendment,” Liebman said. “To not be able to do that at the place that matters most, the place where animals are being killed, I think is a significant infringement on the free speech rights of individuals.”

A spokesman for Schimel said he respects residents’ constitutional right to hunt. A spokesman for the state Natural Resources Department declined the radio station’s request for comment, and the governor’s office didn’t respond to the radio station.


Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, https://www.wpr.org

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