No Pepper Spray

For immediate release                                                                     Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Pepper Spray Q-Tip Swabbing Case Heads to Court

Pre-trial Hearing: Tuesday August 24, San Francisco

Trial Starts September 7

Contact:  Karen Pickett, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, 510-548-3113
Video images/FAQ available at 

Headwaters Forest Defense vs. County of Humboldt et al.
Pepper spray plaintiffs represented by the civil rights legal team from the successful 2002 Earth First! (Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney) vs. FBI and Oakland Police civil case.

PLAINTIFFS: The "Pepper Spray 8":
Spring Lundberg, Terri Compost, Mike McCurdy, Sam Neuwirth, Maya Portugal, Lisa Sanderson-Fox, Jennifer Banka Schneider, and Noel Tendick.

Pre-trial hearing to consider admissibility of trial evidence.  The trial, set to proceed September 7, will put the question to a jury whether direct application to the eye by Q-tip of the chemical agent pepper spray is excessive force when the recipients of the tactic are immobile and passive.

Federal Building
, 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, Calif.
Judge Susan Illston's court: 19th floor, room 10.

Tuesday, August 24
, 3:30 pm.  Plaintiffs and attorneys will be available for media questions at the hearing.  Trial starts September 7, same location.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand." --Frederick Douglas, Slavery Abolitionist

The public was shocked when footage of Humboldt County police forcing pepper-spray soaked Q-tips into the eyes of young non-violent activists was aired on national TV in 1997.  The swabbing happened at sit-in protests calling for the protection of the ancient redwoods of Headwaters Forest in northern California. The American Civil Liberties Union called the officers' actions "tantamount to torture."  The activists sued.

Although the incidents drew international outrage and condemnation, state officials have codified the police tactic by incorporating these practices into guidelines for dealing with civil disobedience in California.

After a 1998 trial ended without a verdict, higher court victories for the plaintiffs sent the case back to San Francisco, after findings of bias on the part of the first judge had him removed from the case. 


Home       Press Release Index