No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters

For immediate release                                                              Sept. 14, 2004
Contact:  Karen Pickett, 510-548-3113

Pepper Spray By Q-tip Trial Opens Second Week With Police Video Tapes
Young Activist Plaintiffs On Stand To Testify This Week

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San Francisco, Calif.-The pepper spray by Q-tip trial to determine whether activists' Fourth Amendment rights were violated when law enforcement inserted Q-tips soaked in liquid pepper spray directly into their eyes continues before a jury of four men and four women in SF Federal court.

After jury selection on Sept. 8, the court heard opening arguments last Thursday by renowned civil rights attorney Dennis Cunningham, lead attorney for the eight plaintiffs, and then from Nancy Delaney, attorney for the County of Humboldt, City of Eureka and two named Humboldt County Sheriff Dept. (HCSD) defendants.   Witnesses on the stand Thursday included Sheriff's Sergeant Pete Ciarabellini, head of the Special Response Team, aka the Earth First! Response Team, and Pacific Lumber Co.'s head of security Carl Anderson, who admitted to shooting marbles at tree-sitting activists with a high-powered slingshot.

Anderson, whose animus for forest protection activists is well-known, was grilled by flamboyant plaintiffs' attorney Tony Serra, who brought out the fact that Pacific Lumber and Anderson had been urging law enforcement to take stronger action against protesters in the long-standing campaign to preserve old growth redwood forest on California's north coast. This escalated response to civil disobedience actions manifested in the use of pepper spray, applied via Q-tip and sprayed at close range into the faces of the plaintiff activists.

On Monday, Sept. 13, the jury saw this in two police video tapes showing the police response to two sit-in actions in the fall of 1997-one in the office of then-Congressman Frank Riggs, and one in the forest in the Bear Creek watershed.  The police, who are being sued in this legal action for use of excessive force, are shown using the unprecedented direct application of the caustic chemical in order to coerce the activists to unlock from their lock-down devices.

The next witnesses on the stand are expected to be:

  • Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff Marvin Kirkpatrick, part of the "Special Response Team" set up by the Sheriffs' Department in the fall of 1997 to deal with demonstrations. He personally applied the pepper spray via Q-tip and direct spray in all three incidents.
  • Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff Held, part of the special services division, who had responded to scores of lock-down protests using other methods common before pepper spray was used.
  • Chief of Eureka Police Arnold Millsap who will discuss Eureka's use of force policy and the incident in Congressman Riggs' office.
  • All eight plaintiffs will testify, beginning with Spring Lundberg, who was 17 years old at the time of the pepper spray incidents. 

Plaintiffs are expected to take the stand starting late Tuesday afternoon or first thing Wednesday Sept. 15.  Court is in session 8:30 3:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday before Judge Susan Illston, in Courtroom 10, 19th floor of the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco.


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