ST. GEORGE — It has been a few days since a jury acquitted Wayne Hsiung and Paul Picklesimer of committing a burglary when they took two piglets from a pork production facility in Southern Utah, but they have not left Utah behind.
On Tuesday afternoon, they returned to the site where it all began on March 7, 2017: The Circle Four Farm in Milford. On Wednesday, they will be back in court – this time in Salt Lake City and this time as plaintiffs.
Hsiung and Picklesimer, as well as several animal advocacy groups, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Beaver County and its Sheriff’s Office claiming their constitutional rights have been violated.
However, that lawsuit doesn’t have to do with what was called a rescue of the two piglets in 2017 by the group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). On Saturday at the 5th District Courthouse in St. George, Hsiung and Picklesimer were found not guilty of all charges in the 2017 incident. Instead, the former defendants and DxE are among those saying they were restricted from distributing flyers and speaking with attendees at the Pioneer Day celebration this past July 23 at Beaver’s City Park.
The lawsuit specifically mentions Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel as coming up to the activists in the park and, according to the lawsuit, telling them, “You will be killed and I won’t be around to stop them. You are on private property and if you don’t leave immediately, I will press charges.”
The lawsuit claims the activists then moved to a nearby sidewalk trying to talk with residents and give flyers. The lawsuit contends deputies harassed them each time they tried to talk with a resident, mentioned the sidewalk was also private property, then asked for their IDs and cited them for disrupting the peace.
Judge Jill Parrish, a former Utah Supreme Court justice and now a federal judge, will hear a motion Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to grant an injunction against the county and its law enforcement officers from harassing, threatening or causing harm to the plaintiffs.
Without such an injunction, Hsiung and Picklesimer still came to Beaver County on Tuesday, trying to serve a written complaint of animal cruelty to the Smithfield Foods facility known as Circle Four Farms.
They had just come from the FBI office in St. George renewing federal animal cruelty complaints against Smithfield Foods.
Like 2017, Hsiung broadcast this visit on the Internet in a live Facebook feed. Beaver County deputies were there and shadowed the two.
“Hello! We have some concerns about what is happening at this company and at this site,” Hsiung, holding a folder full of paperwork, yelled toward farm workers seated inside a pickup truck as he stayed outside the low metal gates.
“Well, that’s not going to work,” Hsiung said as he got no response.
Sheriff Noel then came up to the two in a sports utility vehicle.
“Want to talk?” Noel said, asking that it be done away from any cameras or other people.
“You’ll bring me back in a bit, right?” Hsiung said.
“You know me, right Wayne?” Noel answered.
“ I do. I know you’ve been respectful,” Hsiung said.
Hsiung then climbed into the SUV, which drove off. He later came back with a smile on his face.
“He took my complaint. I feel very good now,” Hsiung said. “I didn’t expect anyone to take my complaint today and someone did and it was the sheriff of the county.”
Previously, Beaver County officials have said the activists from DxE and other animal protection organizations have been “pouring salt on the wound” as this past summer, Smithfield started the layoff of around 250 workers from its facilities in Beaver County. Based on its U.S. Census population of 6,594, one of every four workers in Beaver County works for Smithfield Foods.
Both county officials and residents have blamed DxE and other activists for the loss of jobs, prompting a judge to move Hsiung and Picklesimer’s trial to Washington County – a trial that ended Saturday with them joining supporters on the steps of the St. George courthouse and lighting celebratory smoke bombs.
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