Once again, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been denied a permit to erect a five-and-a-half-foot crippled chicken statue in downtown Louisville because a property owner objected to the idea.
The property owner in question? Why, none other than the Kentucky International Convention Center, a quasi-governmental organization just a stone’s throw from the up-and-coming KFC Yum! Center.
Here’s an email from Public Works Director Ted Pullen sent to PETA on Monday, August 16, denying the application.
I am upholding the denial of the permit for the following reasons:
1. The property owner at the corner of West Market Street and Fourth Street objected to the issuance of a permit because the proposed placement would be an impediment to ingress to and egress from a significant entry and exit point to the Kentucky International Convention Center. In addition to the flow of pedestrian traffic into and out of the Convention Center, the southeast corner of West Market and Fourth Street is a major terminus for bus traffic in Louisville. As a high traffic pedestrian area, space greater than the usual four feet of clearance is necessary to meet the pedestrian demand. Without the permission from the property owner, the petition does not comply with the Department of Public Works and Assets Rules and Regulations Governing Objects to be Placed Temporarily in the Right of Way.
2. A statue that is 66 inches tall, 60 inches deep from tail to beak and 48 inch wingspan made of wood, steel and fiberglass, which weighs 250 pounds, according to your letter of July 26, 2010, that is not attached to the ground or to a building presents a risk to the public safety in that it might be climbed on or toppled over into pedestrian traffic.
3. Under LMCO Chapter 155, which regulates signs, a permit issued by the Department of Codes and Regulations is required before a sign can be erected, constructed or altered. See LMCO 155.02. In the Downtown Form District, which includes the proposed location of the statue, freestanding signs are limited to business signs, directory signs and directional signs. I am concerned that the statue may not meet any of these standards and might be prohibited in the Downtown Form District. Therefore, by a copy of this letter, I am forwarding your request to the Department of Codes and Regulations for a determination as to whether the statue falls within the regulation of LMCO Chapter 155.
You have the right to appeal this decision to a court of competent jurisdiction within thirty days following the date the decision is issued. This denial is being issued on August 16, 2010. Failure to file an appeal within the time period constitutes a waiver of the right to appeal.
In response, PETA issued the following press release today:
The city of Louisville has notified PETA that the group’s appeal for a permit to display a statue of a giant chicken with a decidedly anti-KFC message has been denied. For more than a year, the city and its Department of Public Works have been erecting various creative and ever-changing obstacles to PETA’s application, including a nowhere-to-be-found “moratorium” on permits for public exhibits, a new requirement that adjacent property owners must approve of the public exhibit in defiance of the First Amendment, a months-long delay in reviewing PETA’s application, and other constitutionally suspect tactics that PETA believes were used to keep information about KFC suppliers’ notoriously cruel treatment of chickens out of the public forum. Designed by renowned New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss, PETA’s statue is 5 1/2 feet tall, features a “bloody” chicken on crutches, and reads, “KFC Cripples Chickens.”
“Something doesn’t smell right when Louisville had no problem granting a permit for horse statues—which were sponsored by attorneys for KFC—at the very same intersection as our proposed display,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, who notes that PETA is considering seeking a pro bono local attorney to pursue this case. “In kowtowing to business interests, Louisville has demonstrated a shameful disregard for the suffering of billions of chickens and the integrity of the U.S. Constitution.”
The city’s adversarial posturing and repeated roadblocks contrast sharply with the image of Louisville that is portrayed on the city’s website: “It’s a town without excuses, blissfully free of the hang-ups and holdups that keep things from happening. It’s a place where blue-sky thinking meets grassroots can-do. It’s a city without limits. Anything’s possible here in Louisville.”
In its 20-page formal appeal, which was submitted in July, PETA specifically requested that Ted Pullen, director of Public Works, recuse himself from deciding the appeal because his own alleged misconduct was one of the issues that PETA raised on appeal. In an apparent conflict of interest, Pullen did not recuse himself and instead sat in judgment over his own conduct.
This could be considered yet another win for Yum! Brands, whose Kentucky Friend Chicken brand yesterday reclaimed the unofficial world record for most chickens fried/senses of human dignity up-ended.
“Aside from being absurd, (the city) basically gave us a heckler’s veto,” said Jeff Kerr, general counsel and vice president of corporate affairs for PETA. “We think the same infirmity applies because we think the denial is based upon the context of our speech.”
Kerr says that PETA is open to hiring a pro bono lawyer and taking the city to trial over what it feels is a First Amendment issue.
“When cities act like this,” Kerr says, “people have to stand up and say, ‘we’re not going to let it happen.’ In our case, we are absolutely committed to giving our message about the horror these chickens go through to be raised for KFC restaurants, especially in Louisville.”