Robert Cherwink (rc@vom.com)
Sun, 2 Nov 1997 23:08:11 -0800

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----------------- 1. HEADWATERS PROTESTERS FILE SUIT AGAINST HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF 2. Protesters demand ban on pepper spray (Press Democrat, 31 Oct) 3. The eyes of the storm (SF Examiner, 2 Nov) -----------------


H E A D W A T E R S F O R E S T N E W S ** F L A S H ** News 11-01-97 -- Saturday, November 1, 1997


HEADWATERS PROTESTERS FILE SUIT AGAINST HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF Shocking footage shows deputies applying chemical agent directly on eyes of passive protesters -- FBI to investigate Sheriff

San Francisco, CA -- The FBI has opened an investigation into the actions of Humboldt County Sheriffs Deputies who swabbed pepper spray directly onto the eyes of passive, locked-down Headwaters Forest defenders engaged in a nonviolent sit-in two weeks ago in Eureka, CA. Videotape made by police during the arrests shows a shocking scene of screaming, writhing protesters with their arms locked together, while police apply the noxious chemical agent directly into their eyes.

The entire story is available on www.HeadwatersForest.org, along with articles from the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, CNN, MSNBC, and ABC, and links to video on the Web of the brutal pepper spraying incident.


------------------------------------------------------------ S E N T B Y Headwaters Sanctuary Project and Bay Area Action. Repost at will -- Please include all attributions & contact info. www.HeadwatersForest.org | headwaters@enews.org ------------------------------------------------------------

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----------------- 2. Protesters demand ban on pepper spray (Press Democrat, 31 Oct) -----------------

Protesters demand ban on pepper spray (from pressdemo.com)

Oct. 31, 1997

Protesters demand ban on pepper spray

By MIKE GENIELLA Press Democrat staff writer

Armed with dramatic police videotapes, attorneys for Headwaters Forest protesters on Thursday petitioned a federal court in San Francisco for a ban on law enforcement use of pepper spray on peaceful demonstrators.

One tape shows Humboldt County sheriff's deputies and Eureka police officers using cotton swabs to apply the controversial substance to the eyelids of four young female protesters during an Oct. 16 sit-in at the district office of Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor.

Another tape shows similar events in the lobby of Pacific Lumber Co. headquarters in Scotia during a Sept. 25 protest. In both cases, demonstrators linked hands inside metal sleeves and refused to let go until after the pepper spray liquid was applied.

"It was like burning under your skin ... the worst pain I've ever felt," Maya Portugal, 16, of Eureka said during a press conference outside federal court in San Francisco. Portugal and other protesters were demonstrating against a pending $380 million Clinton administration deal to create a new 7,500-acre Headwaters preserve. Activists want up to 60,000 acres preserved.

Colorado lawyer Macon Cowles and Arcata attorney Mark Harris, lawyers for the demonstrators, on Thursday likened the tactics to fire hoses used on civil rights protesters in the South.

"Now we've gotten more sophisticated, and really more terrible, using chemical agents," Cowles said.

But Humboldt County Sheriff's Capt. Gary Phelp on Thursday said the pepper spray incidents were being overblown.

Phelp defended local authorities' decision to dab cotton swabs in pepper spray, and then pull back demonstrators' heads so the irritating substance could be applied to their eyelids.

"At the time, we believed protesters wouldn't be hurt as badly. The pain would have been much greater if we were forced to apply either compliance techniques or cut through the metal sleeves and risk injuring them with the equipment," said Phelp.

Phelp said the cotton swabs were dabbed "in very small amounts" of pepper spray. He acknowledged one protester was sprayed in an eye as shown on one of the tapes, but said it was for "less than a second so she could be forced to open her eye."

Phelp said pepper spray was only used after the protesters ignored "multiple warnings over a period of hours" that they were breaking the law by trespassing.

"We carefully thought this through. We honestly believed that using the spray put the protesters at less risk of being hurt," Phelp said.

Use of pepper spray has been challenged in several cities after deaths of criminal suspects. Authorities say pepper spray lets them subdue violent suspects without lethal force. But critics say it is ineffective and can be dangerous. The Berkeley City Council was petitioned to halt the use of pepper spray, but on Tuesday night it refused to ban or limit police use of the substance.

Attorney Harris, who obtained the police videotapes during pretrial legal proceedings involving criminal charges against the demonstrators, said they show how unnecessary force was used against the protesters.

He said young activists had their heads "violently yanked back" before their eyelids were dabbed with the pepper spray.

Riggs' spokesman Beau Phillips said Thursday that he would not respond to questions about police procedures. But Phillips said the protesters had "terrorized and assaulted two female employees of the congressman, vandalized the office and trespassed on federal property."

"The police issued repeated orders for them to leave. The 60 protesters outside were expressing their First Amendment rights. The four protesters inside were breaking the law," Phillips said.

Pacific Lumber Co. representative Mary Bullwinkel said protesters occupied the lobby of company headquarters for several hours before sheriff's deputies finally acted.

"What can we say? They were asked to leave voluntarily, but they refused," said Bullwinkel.

Copyright 1997, The Press Democrat

----------------- 3. The eyes of the storm (SF Examiner, 2 Nov) -----------------

San Francisco Examiner Sun, 2 Nov 1997 The eyes of the storm


REMEMBER the Rodney King video? Nobody got up in Congress and defended the cops who beat King with batons. Now we have another video.

In the last few days, you may have seen a horrifying video of police armed with Q-tips instead of batons.

They were swabbing pepper spray directly into the eyes of young environmental protesters who had chained themselves to a stump in the Eureka office of Congressman Frank Riggs.

On the day after members of Congress lectured Chinese leader Jiang Zemin about human rights abuses in his country, Riggs got up on the floor of Congress and defended the deputies' actions.

Riggs condemned the protesters as "reckless, wanton lawbreakers." It recalled the Chinese president saying order must take precedence over human rights.

Consider another American politician and how she reacted to environmental protesters chained to stumps in her office.

Last year Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her staff called the San Francisco police to her office, and the cops cut the chains of the save-the-redwoods protesters with a grinder. She was outraged and wanted them out, but she didn't want them hurt.

On Friday, Feinstein wrote a powerful letter of protest to Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis about his deputies' actions in Riggs' office.

"I believe the use of pepper spray in a situation where it appears the demonstrators posed no threat of injury is unwarranted and unnecessary," she wrote.

There are people of honor and humanity in our government, whatever you think of their positions on China or old-growth redwood forests.

I'd hate to see Feinstein's reaction if she caught a cop in her office rubbing the painful essence of hot peppers in teenage girls' eyes.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, being outside and knowing they were being pepper-sprayed in there," said Earth First's Josh Brown, who was outside Riggs' office during the Oct. 16 protest.

"We just held hands and sang so they could hear us. When they came out with their faces red and swollen shut, it was hard."

"It's un-American," said Celia Alario, a field organizer for protests to save old-growth redwoods in the Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County. "We live in a country where we are blessed by our forefathers with not only the right, but the responsibility, to stand up for what we believe."

Or, as the case may be, to sit down and chain themselves to a stump for what they believe. They believe in saving 60,000 acres of old-growth redwoods instead of the 7,500 acres the feds and state have negotiated to buy from the Pacific Lumber Co.

Whatever you think of young people chaining themselves to stumps in offices, you have to admit they're in no position to pose a threat or run away, the only acceptable reasons for a cop to use pepper spray.

By the way, the stump in Riggs' office was Douglas fir from a Pacific Lumber clear-cut. There are a lot of stumps in Riggs' district.

"I haven't been pepper-sprayed myself," said John Bowling, a Humboldt protester who works for the publication Ecotopia News. "But if I am, I don't know what will happen, because I have asthma."

Last week, a San Rafael man with asthma was pepper-sprayed by police and died.

Pepper spray has been applied to protesters' faces and eyes by deputies during two previous protests in Humboldt, according to protesters and their lawyers, who have filed a federal civil rights suit against Humboldt County authorities.

Chemical warfare directly into mucous membranes is just part of what activists face in Humboldt. If you've ever made fun of "tree-huggers" as impractical dreamers, you don't know how hard the authorities in Humboldt County make it to hug a tree, or a stump.

The save-the-redwoods protesters say they take about six hours of training in Gandhian tactics of nonviolence. "If you can't do it, you can work in the kitchen, or we ask you to leave," said Alario.

They even have invited the police to join in the training, but, according to Bowling, only two officers from the small town of Arcata responded.

Then the protesters do all kinds of things you may find extreme, like sitting high in trees or chaining themselves to a lumber company gate. Sometimes they just stand by a public roadside.

Deputies have dragged them from the trees, pulled their chains tight, or put them in "pain-compliance" holds.

Sometimes their protests on public roadsides are declared "unlawful assemblies," and they're hauled off to jail. Then I guess it's time to become a Constitution-hugger.

"Destruction of the forest hasn't come without the destruction of civil liberties," is the way Bowling put it.

No, Humboldt County isn't Tiananmen Square. Pepper spray is not automatic weapons fire. This is America, after all.

We're so advanced in civil liberties and human rights we can tell other countries what to do - and hope they're not watching what we do on television.

----------------- NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes. -----------------

Peace! Rob, Sector Air Raid Warden at Rob's Place A SITE DEDICATED TO SPIRIT, TRUTH, PEACE, JUSTICE, AND FREEDOM http://www.vom.com/rc/home.htm


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