No Pepper Spray

For immediate release
January 21, 2003



Contact: Karen Pickett, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters   510-548-3113

Press Conference and Court Hearing at US Federal Court in San Francisco Jan. 23

The "Pepper Spray-by-Q-tip" civil rights lawsuit will be back in trial court on Thursday, January 23 for its first hearing since being reinstated. The activist suit against law enforcement for excessive use of force was dismissed by the trial judge in 1998 after a jury deadlocked. Since then the plaintiffs have garnered landslide appeals victories from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court, reinstating the case and putting it back on course for another jury trial. The High Court also refused to grant the top officers from Humboldt County Sheriff's Dept. "qualified immunity" protection, thus creating strong case-law that could have bearing on other civil rights cases.

Thursday's court hearing will determine the next step toward trial for the pepper spray case, which gained attention in 1997 when video images of pepper spray being smeared into the eyes of peaceful protesters sparked international outrage. The protesters were staging sit-ins in corporate offices and on lumber company land in defense of the ancient redwoods of Headwaters Forest, located on California's north coast.

A press conference will take place prior to Thursday's hearing, with case plaintiffs and attorneys in attendance, including courtroom dynamo Tony Serra. The press conference will begin at 2:30 p.m. outside the San Francisco US Federal Court building, located at 450 Golden Gate, on the south side. In case of  poor weather, the location will be inside the court building upstairs. The 3:30 p.m. court hearing will take place in the Federal Court building on the 17th floor in Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom # 6.

The press conference will provide a case synopsis and present the new legal team.  Pepper spray plaintiffs have teamed up with the trial team who recently won the  historic Judi Bari vs. FBI case, which resulted in a $4.4 million victory against the FBI for Constitutional rights violations of Earth First! activists.

Plaintiff and activist Spring Lundberg was 17 when pepper spray was swabbed into her eyes as she was locked to her fellow protesters, sitting in a circle in Pacific Lumber Company's headquarters office. She stated, "Linking Judi Bari's story with our pepper spray case is an important step in telling our  movement's history. Government and Big Timber wanted to crush Judi's Redwood Summer organizing in 1990 just as they wanted to punish us for our beliefs with pepper spray in 1997. Protecting the ancient redwoods of northern California has been-and continues to be-a long struggle, and we're honored to see our work mirrored in the struggles of those who have come before."

Lundberg added, "As US-instigated war in Iraq and around the world rages unabated behind the smokescreen of the 'War on Terror,' it doesn't take much to get called a terrorist these days. We feel our civil rights lawsuit is ever more important in today's post-911 climate of state repression."


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