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Huntington Bay police arrest 2 at protest outside exec’s home

Animal rights activists march to the Halesite home

Animal rights activists march to the Halesite home of Richard Cavallaro on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, protesting Cavallaro's company holding a contract to build a new animal research facility at the University of Washington. Credit: James Carbone

Two activists were detained by police during a protest against animal testing outside a construction executive’s house Saturday.

About 100 demonstrators marched through downtown Huntington to the home of Skanska USA Inc. chief executive Richard Cavallaro, whose company has a contract to build an animal testing laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, activists said.

Security guards stopped two men as they rushed across Cavallaro’s yard and raised a ladder against his house, apparently in an attempt to display a banner on his roof. They were driven off in a Huntington Bay police vehicle.

A Huntington Bay police officer reached at the station Saturday evening said the department had no comment and declined to provide information about the incident, including what charges were filed.

Protesters chanted for about an hour outside Cavallaro’s home on a typically quiet residential street in Huntington Bay. “Richard Cavallaro has blood on his hands,” they shouted.

A man tossed the ladder off the house and shouted at protesters from the porch.

Activists said they were part of a nationwide No New Animal Lab campaign that has been attempting to stop the laboratory’s construction for the past year. About 175 people demonstrated Friday night outside Skanska USA’s headquarters at the Empire State Building, activists said.

The university has said the lab, which will be below ground level, will provide better conditions than research animals now experience and will enable more medical research used to develop medicines. On its website, the university says, “This new facility will further advances in science and medicine and create a more centralized, efficient and flexible facility to address current and future research needs at the University of Washington.”

Cavallaro, reached by phone Saturday evening, said his family was “shook up” by the incident.

“I expected screaming and yelling, but I didn’t expect someone to try to climb a ladder,” he said. “I understand these guys have a point of view, but they should do it the right way. They’re using terrorist tactics.”

Michelle Gjuraj, an organizer with a group called New York City Animal Defense League, said the purpose of Saturday’s protest was to raise awareness among Cavallaro’s neighbors.

“Richard Cavallaro is a very powerful person in their community, so if we’re going to pressure him, they should pressure him too,” she said.

One banner activists carried through Huntington read, “Your neighbor profits from animal torture.” Another read, “Skanska builds torture chambers for animals.”

“This is a man who has the power to save thousands of animals just by cancelling his company’s contract,” Jay Johnson, another organizer with New York City Animal Defense League, said of Cavallaro.

Skanska USA spokeswoman Nicole Didda said the firm was strictly a construction company and not involved in lab activities.

“If these groups disagree with the use, they should take it up with the owner or government agencies that authorized it,” she said.

Protesters held up images of a mutilated dog, puppies in a cage and a monkey in metal restraints.

They were flanked by as many as eight Suffolk County police cruisers at times as they marched through Huntington.

Bystanders held up mobile phones to shoot videos or raised their thumbs in approval. A woman in Cavallaro’s neighborhood shouted at demonstrators angrily from her doorway.

After the two men were detained, protesters quickly collected about $200 for bail, then marched to the Huntington Bay police station and back to the protest’s starting point at Heckscher Park in Huntington.

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