SOC/BIO: Anti-GM Activists at ICAG Conference in Minneapolis

Date: Sat Jul 22 2000 - 08:33:28 MDT

HEADLINE: Minneapolis braces for disturbances at animal scientists' conference

BYLINE: By JOSH L. DICKEY, Associated Press Writer



    Police are preparing to control hundreds and possibly thousands of
  demonstrators as some 500 scientists from around the world meet here
  Friday for the International Society of Animal Genetics conference.

    Organizers say the biennial event, being held in the United States for the
  first time, has never been confronted by demonstrations. But protest
groups say
  they'll do "whatever is necessary" to end what they call the exploitation of
  animals and dangerous manipulation of genetic material.

    Police have purchased more than 100 sets of riot gear and will set up a
  perimeter around the downtown hotel hosting the six-day conference.

    "We are preparing for any stage of what might happen," Chief Robert Olson

    At least two summer festivals have canceled or postponed events for fear
  disruptions caused by protesters. The Minnesota Orchestra, after
consulting with
  police, canceled three Sommerfest concerts scheduled for Sunday, Monday and

    The animal research group began in the mid-1950s as a coalition of
  interested in comparing research on livestock blood-typing and
grouping. As the
  science of genetics evolved, so did the organization, which now
claims about 650
  members. Most of those are university and government researchers, said Brian
  Kirkpatrick, ISAG secretary and animal-science professor at the University
  Wisconsin-Madison, where the organization is based.

    Kirkpatrick said ISAG is one of the world's most prominent groups
that shares
  information on the gene mapping of livestock and companion animals, used to
  enhance their health and resistance to disease and harsh conditions, like
  and cold. He said no experimentation or testing will take place at the
  organization's 27th conference.

    "It's just a bunch of scientists getting together and reporting what
  working on," Kirkpatrick said. "We've never really been a target for

    Matt Bullard, a spokesman for the University of Minnesota-based Student
  Organization for Animal Rights, said between 40 and 50 people from
SOAR and the
  Upper Midwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, also known as
  met Tuesday night to discuss their demonstration strategies. Bullard said
  GrainRAGE is the main organizing group.

    Bullard said the group plans to gather in Loring Park near downtown
  Minneapolis at 6 p.m. Friday to begin a march toward the Hyatt Regency Hotel
  where the conference is being held.

    Police spokeswoman Cyndi Montgomery said the department has consulted with
  law enforcement agencies in Seattle and Boston to learn from their recent
  experiences. Seattle was the site of violent and paralyzing demonstrations
  during the World Trade Organization meeting in December, while Boston spent
  weeks preparing for a biotechnology conference in March that went relatively

    Montgomery said Minneapolis police have spent about $100,000 preparing for
  the six-day event, including the purchase of nightsticks, plastic hand
  and "hard dress," a type of riot gear made of rigid foam.

    Bullard, of SOAR, said he doesn't see why demonstrators should be kept
  the site, but wouldn't say whether they might try to cross the perimeter.
  Montgomery said if they do, police have discretion to make any
arrests they deem

    "Let's just say that we will deal with any activity as it occurs,"
  said. "People have the right to freedom of speech. We support that. It's
  that we can't tolerate unlawful behavior or civil disobedience."

    Reasons for opposition to animal genetic modification vary from group to
  group. SOAR, which most frequently protests animal experimentation and
  vivisection on campus, takes issue with the cruelty to animals associated
  genetic engineering, Bullard said.

    "It's turning animals into machines for profit, even more so than they are
  already," Bullard said. Other groups are more concerned with safety and
  preserving the integrity of the gene pool.

    Members of GrainRAGE, which was founded in January, did not return phone
  calls Tuesday or Wednesday. The organization's Web site says that ISAG is a
  "good excuse to rail against one of the foundations of our death-culture."
  also posts a "Stop the mad scientists!" schedule, calling for a
"shut 'em down"
  event Monday at an undisclosed location.

    "We hope this doesn't turn into another Seattle, we won't tolerate another
  Seattle, and we're prepared to handle anything that happens here in
  this weekend," Montgomery said.

    On the Net:

    International Conference on Animal Genetics:


    Bioengineering Action Network of North America:

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