Lowenthal soaks animal rights protesters and public with irrigation that irritates
They think their cause is noble, but thanks to Lowenthal's new sprinkler system and its noble desire to take care of the grass, animal rights protesters recently have been all wet. But it now appears Lowenthal's may be the guilty party for illegally placing the sprinkler system in the public right-of-way, which when activated, deprives everyone use of the sidewalk without getting wet.
Hugh S. Vaughan of Lowenthal's said, "He put the system in last year without a permit." He said he got a permit for the well, but not to locate the irrigation system on public property.
Somehow, the demonstrators coincidentally show up at Lowenthal's intersection on Virginia Beach Boulevard, just before it is time to water the lawn. Vaughan of Lowenthal's said, tongue in cheek, that particular set of sprinklers comes on at regular rotation times - one of a 4-zone system. Just happens the protesters and the sprinklers are on the same rotation cycle.
The system is located in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb, across the boulevard from the Central Library, and the popup sprinkler heads just happen to be aimed to spray the sidewalk where the demonstrators protest.
Margaret Ann Thompson, one protester, was arrested in January because she stepped on the sprinkler head and pushed it back into the ground. Police were called. The police dispatch log shows Lowenthal's called them because the protesters were 'advised to move off his sprinkler system.'
Lowenthal's told police, "There are anti fur protesters out front stomping the sprinkler system in the ground."
Ms. Thompson told her attorney, Kevin Martingayle, that Patrolwoman E. A. Vanderheiden told her that Lowenthal's had 'permission to put the sprinklers out there.' She apparently let the policewoman know what she thought of her uninformed opinion and was arrested for disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. Her trial is set for Feb. 19 in district court.
Martingayle said, "Apparently the cop a made remark about owners had special permission to have sprinklers where they are located...and there was a running debate, then my client made some remark about you canít reason with stupid people." Upset the little policewoman. The city has told Martingayle it has no record of sprinklers being allowed in that location.
Advised of the city's having no record of giving Lowenthal permission to install the system in the public right-of-way and wet down the sidewalk, Vaughan said, "If we have crossed over the line, we will have to correct it. We are too involved in community not to abide by the rules and regulation.
"It was my understanding our obligations, not our legal obligation, was to care for the land out there. We seed, fertilize and sprinkle it. The sprinklers run in 4-zone cycle, " said Vaughan.
He implied they might just move the sprinklers onto the lawn side of the sidewalk. And then point them back toward the sidewalk, he was asked, "We're going to continue to water the grass, I guess."
Later, he seemed to mellow some: "If they would do this civilly, I wouldn't have any problem with it. But when it gets to the point of rudeness then it is out of hand. We are entitled to do business. When they are taking away the rights of others, they have gone beyond their rights and freedoms. When they are in your face, with not just rudeness, but with profanity, then they go beyond their freedoms." While observed this past weekend all protesters remained on the sidewalk and merely waved their signs at passing traffic.
A representative of the group demonstrating in the water last weekend said they were just individuals, not members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Vaughan said one of them came in his store earlier and talked to him said they represent Tidewater Animal Defense.
The group gave Martingayle photos showing a wheelchair-bound individual at the west end of the wet sidewalk unable to pass without getting wet. This reporter observing the scene last weekend saw the sidewalk used by other pedestrians, joggers, and one handicapped girl who had difficulty walking on the dry sidewalk just before the sprinklers were turned on. All of them would have been soaked if they'd come by 15 minutes later.
Vaughan said he had not thought of the action as depriving the general public the use of the sidewalk until questioned by a reporter. "I guess it is more depriving the public (than demonstrators) of the use of the sidewalk," he said.
Martingayle said, "If Lowenthal had taken a position against the Town Center and the Central Business District advocacy group wanted to picket Lowenthal for their action, do you think for one minute that Lowenthal or anyone else would get away with spraying water on them?
"If they were in suits and ties, they would be treated a lot differently than animal rights activists. That is whatís wrong. That isnít equal protection of the law.
"It's amazing that some people in law enforcement donít understand that concept," Martingayle said.