Animal rights activists were planning the second of two nights of protest Saturday evening against a Professional Bull Riders event at Acrisure Arena, one day after an attorney for the demonstrators sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department accusing authorities of violating the protesters’ free speech rights.

Members of the group Last Chance for Animals say sheriff’s officials are keeping them from interacting with the public by requiring them to stand in an area far away from traffic instead of their preferred gathering spot on a sidewalk adjacent to the arena’s main entrance.

“I understand the Arena and/or the Riverside Sheriff’s Department take the position that activists may not stand adjacent to the entrance, but instead must confine their expressive activity to an area that is far away from PBR patrons, where the activists will not be able to effectively have their message heard,” attorney David Rutan wrote in the letter Friday, which was addressed to Captain Dean Agnoletto of the sheriff’s Palm Desert station.

“For the reasons set forth below, this position violates the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments, 42 U.S.C., 1983, and other federal laws,” the letter continued.

“Activists will not enter any ticket-only areas; they will not block or hinder any sidewalk, stairway, doorway, or other means of ingress or egress; and they will not otherwise obstruct or interfere with any operations of the Arena or the PBR event,” Rutan wrote.

Attempts to reach the RCSD for comment on Saturday were not immediately successful.

The demonstrators argue that bull riding is cruel to animals. They say rodeos use tools such as spurs, straps and electric prods to make horses and bulls buck, that the animals are kept in small, confined spaces for long periods of time, and that the experience of being forced to do things they don’t want to do in front of thousands of screaming people is inherently cruel.

However, Andrew Giangola, a spokesman for PBR, told City News Service that the animals who perform in the PBR “are bred to buck and love what they do.”

“They get the best care and live a great life, four to times longer than 99% of male bovines who enter the food supply between 2 -3 years old,” Giangola said. “These valuable bulls, spared a death sentence, are the true rock stars of the sport and treated as such. Anyone who loves animals should be cheering on these marvelous bull athletes.”

A few jurisdictions have banned certain tools used in bull-riding and rodeo events over animal cruelty concerns. Los Angeles currently has a proposed ban awaiting final City Council approval, modeled after Pittsburgh’s 1992 ordinance.

The PBR held it first event at Acrisure Arena on Friday night, and the PBR’s Pendleton Whiskey Velocity Tour event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the arena, located at 75702 Varner Road in Palm Desert.

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