Activists halt work at animal testing construction site

At 4:30 a.m. Monday, two activists climbed an excavator on the construction site of the UW’s new animal testing facility at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Pacific Street.

One activist chained themselves to the excavator. The other activist, unchained but also situated on the excavator, was responsible for a backpack with food and other supplies and for the maintenance of a banner that read “You Will Not Build This Lab.”

They are a part of the No New Animal Lab campaign, which has been protesting the UW’s new $123.5 million Animal Research and Care Facility in advance of the UW Board of Regents vote in November 2013 to build the facility.

The activists are opposed to the UW conducting animal testing, but organizers have stated from the beginning their target is Skanska, the construction firm the UW is contracting with on the project.

According to the No New Animal Lab Facebook page statement, in the past, Skanska has discontinued projects and terminated contracts when their image has been questioned.

“Consistency will make them fold,” the Facebook page states. “It all hinges on our commitment to animal liberation. The lab will not be built if we sustain enough pressure.”

According to Justin Key, a spokesperson for the group, the activists who chained themselves to the excavator on Monday felt stopping construction was their last resort, as they believe the UW has refused to listen to them in forums and previous demonstrations.

Police were at the scene early Monday morning, and UW Police Department (UWPD) chief John Vinson confirmed the activists are trespassing. However, the UW did not take action until after 4 p.m.

While the identities of the activists have not been released, most of those affiliated with the No New Animal Lab campaign were not UW students, but members of the larger Seattle community, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

Those involved in the campaign are also not formally organized, as No New Animal Lab is about spreading a message, and not an official organization.

According to UW spokesperson Norm Arkans, the university wanted to hear the activists out and ensure their safety before moving forward with legal action. However, Arkans told The Times the university stands by its choices.

“At some point, you have to test what you’re doing on a complex organism,” Arkans told The Times. “We have a whole lot of people doing good work to further human health.”

Around 4 p.m. Monday, the UWPD and the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) moved in for extraction.

“It’s been over 11 hours, they stopped all construction on site, and showed UW, Skanska, and [Northwest] Construction that there are people willing to put their bodies on the line to stop the lab,” Key said in a text at the time of the extraction.

The university released a statement at 5 p.m. stating that the activists agree to be removed with the assistance of the SFD and were booked at the King County Jail for criminal sabotage.

“The UW understands that the protesters do not want us to build the facility, and we know they hold this view passionately,” the statement said. “However, this building is needed and construction will proceed.”

Reach News Editor Eleanor Cummins at Twitter: @elliepses