No Pepper Spray On Nonviolent Protesters

For immediate release February 3, 2003


County Wants To Continue Swabbing

Settlement offer presentation and public comment at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Meeting in Eureka Feb. 4, 2003; also at the Eureka and Arcata City Council Meetings Feb. 4 and 5.

Contact Spring Lundberg, Pepper Spray Plaintiff  707-***-****; Noel Tendick, Pepper Spray Plaintiff  831-***-****

EUREKA, CA In response to a January 23, 2003 order by US District Judge Vaughn Walker, the activists who were swabbed and sprayed with pepper spray during nonviolent sit-ins for Headwaters Forest have submitted a letter to the county asking for a mediated settlement discussion about stopping the use of chemical weapons on demonstrators. Judge Walker directed the plaintiffs to submit their settlement demands after attorney Nancy Delaney, who represents Humboldt County, the City of Eureka, former Sheriff Dennis Lewis, and Current Sheriff Gary Philp, said that the county was determined to go to trial in the federal civil rights case because they want to reserve the right to swab activists with pepper spray in the future­ even though the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the practice "excessive force." If the plaintiffs' settlement offer is rejected, the case is set for trial before a jury May 12, 2003, at the County Courthouse in Eureka. The defendants have three weeks to respond.

A SETTLEMENT PRESENTATION and public comment with case plaintiffs and community members in attendance will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, February 4, 2003 at 9 a.m. at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, held in room 111 of the Humboldt County Courthouse, located at 825 Fifth Street. A PRESS CONFERENCE with plaintiffs will be held at 8:30 a.m. in front of the courthouse. Plaintiffs will also be presenting later the same day at the Eureka City Council meeting, held at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of Eureka City Hall, 531 K Street, Eureka. Another presentation will be made to the Arcata City Council at their 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, February 5, 2003 located at Arcata City Hall, 736 F Street, Arcata. A copy of the plaintiffs' settlement letter is available upon request.

"We want to see a just resolution that will protect people's rights and stop wasting county monies on defending police torture of peaceful protesters," Plaintiff Spring Lundberg stated. "This lawsuit can be over now if the defendants, our representatives, will meet us at the mediation table and be reasonable and accountable."

The pepper spray case went to trial in San Francisco in 1998, resulting in a deadlocked jury. Judge Walker's decision to then dismiss the case was subsequently overturned in 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 Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp and former Sheriff Dennis Lewis "qualified immunity" protection, thus exposing the officers to possible personal liability and punitive damages, and creating strong case- law that could have bearing on other federal civil rights cases.

This marks the second time the plaintiffs have attempted to resolve the case with an agreement by the county to not use pepper spray, the first time in 1998 before the case went to trial. Today, many costly court proceedings later, the defendants continue using tax payer money to defend the police actions, seen around the world in video images which gained Humboldt County infamy and horrified the public.

Also scheduled to appear at the Eureka Courthouse on Tuesday is courtroom dynamo Tony Serra, who is representing a Mattole tree- sitter in a criminal trial for trespassing. Tony Serra is also an attorney for the pepper spray plaintiffs, who have teamed up with the trial team that 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 Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.


Click here to read the Plaintiffs' Settlement Offer Letter

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