(en) HEADWATERS/PEPPERSPRAY: Protesters heckle Riggs at holiday

Robert Cherwink (rc@vom.com)
Wed, 12 Nov 1997 18:27:55 -0800

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News (article below): Protesters heckle Riggs at holiday ceremony (from pressdemo.com Nov. 12, 1997)

Background: HEADWATERS PROTESTERS TORTURED BY SHERIFFS.. Shocking footage shows deputies applying chemical agent directly on eyes of passive protesters...

See "www.HeadwatersForest.org" for the entire story (includes 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). See also: "http://www.humguide.com/pepper.html"


Protesters heckle Riggs at holiday ceremony

By JAMES W. SWEENEY Press Democrat staff writer

ARCATA -- Noisy student demonstrators and supportive veterans greeted Rep. Frank Riggs on Tuesday on his first visit to Humboldt County since a national furor erupted over police using pepper spray to break up non-violent demonstrations.

Protesters disrupted a Veterans Day ceremony at Humboldt State University, raising a hand-painted banner reading "Pepper Spray Riggs Now" in large red and black letters. Other demonstrators shouted at the Windsor Republican, who set aside his prepared remarks and addressed his critics.

"We can debate the police methods of ending the disturbance," Riggs said. "But this is incontrovertible. The people in my office were under arrest. They were defying the lawful orders of sworn peace officers. They had been and were continuing to break the law."

His comments drew a mixture of jeers and applause from a crowd of more than 300 people that filled a university conference room and spilled out the doors into the hallway.

In the larger community, reaction to the pepper spray controversy also remained mixed.

"Most of them are all outsiders who come up here and screw up our area," said Mark Dias, a Eureka auto dealer. "What gives them the right to walk in there and start terrorizing his office and threatening those people?"

Many of the students protesting Riggs arrived after a demonstration outside the building that focused on both the use of pepper spray and the Headwaters Forest agreement that was the catalyst for the incidents last month in Riggs' office in Eureka and Pacific Lumber Co. headquarters in nearby Scotia.

Among the protesters was an Arcata woman named Spring, who was among a half dozen demonstrators whose eyes were swabbed with liquid pepper spray after they refused to remove their arms from locking devices when they were arrested in Riggs' office three weeks ago.

"It's a horrible thing," she said. "Make law enforcement realize we are not going to stand for this."

The protesters have filed a federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages and a court injunction prohibiting Humboldt County law enforcement agencies from using pepper spray on non-violent demonstrators.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Friday.

Riggs denounced the protesters as "reckless, wanton lawbreakers" in a speech on the House floor after the suit was filed. And he blistered them again in Veteran's Day speeches in Arcata and Eureka.

"For all of you who are angry about this, I personally believe that it's an affront to Ghandi and Martin Luther King," he told hecklers at Humboldt State. "Civil disobedience does not involve breaking into somebody's place of work, wearing black clothing head to foot and it does not involve heckling or trying to shout down somebody else because they have a different opinion from you."

At another Veterans Day event an hour earlier on the Eureka waterfront, Riggs received a warm welcome from Coast Guard members, military veterans - some of them dressed in their uniforms - and members of the local Rotary club who gathered to dedicate a memorial plaque to four Coast Guard helicopter crew members who died last June on a rescue mission off Cape Mendocino.

They applauded when the congressman made his only reference to recent uproars over pepper spray and timber harvesting: "Those freedoms (secured in war) include the right to assemble, the right to peacefully protest. They don't include the right to threaten others, the right to destroy public property."

Riggs and his staff say protesters caused extensive damage when they spread sawdust around his office and joined arms inside metal tubes while sitting around a tree stump they dumped on the floor. No cost for cleanup or repairs was available.

Protesters insist they did no damage. They plan to march on Riggs' office in Eureka again Thursday though he already will have returned to Washington.

Residents were divided over the behavior of the protesters and the Humboldt County sheriff's deputies and Eureka police officers who arrested them.

"I think they got what they deserved," said Mary Jorgensen, the city clerk in Ferndale.

Jerry Anderson, a Eureka bartender who attended Veterans Day ceremonies at the waterfront, said his customers are divided almost evenly but "it's starting to fade" as a topic of interest.

In Arcata, however, students waved signs and shouted slogans outside the building and inside the room where Riggs spoke. Afterwards, police escorted the congressman off campus with protesters chasing the car on foot, on skateboards and even pushing baby strollers.

"We're all veterans, we're all leaders. You don't speak for us" shouted Mark Knipper, a student and former Navy seaman who stood facing backwards with a hat pulled over his face while Riggs spoke.

Behind the pepper spray controversy is the long-running dispute over forest practices on the North Coast. Demonstrators are unhappy with legislation approved by Congress and awaiting action by President Clinton to acquire the 3,000-acre Headwaters Forest and 4,500 acres of surrounding timber land.

Opponents say it's insufficient, calling instead for the acquisition of 60,000 acres of Humboldt County timber land, contending it is needed to ensure the health of Headwaters, the largest tract of ancient redwoods remaining in private ownership. Critics also are unhappy that the $380 million purchase price would go to Maxxam Corp., the Houston conglomerate that bought out Pacific Lumber a decade ago.

Riggs supports the Headwaters legislation.

Copyright 1997, The Press Democrat

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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.

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FYI: Congressman Riggs' office telephone number is: 707-441-8701

The telephone number of the Humboldt County Sheriff Department is 707-445-7251


See "www.HeadwatersForest.org" for more on the Headwaters Forest issue.


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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