No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters

For immediate release:                                     Sept. 20, 2004

Contact Karen Pickett, 510-548-3113

Plaintiffs' Case Wraps Up in Pepper Spray By Q-tip Trial
Law Enforcement Puts Their Case On This Week

Beta cam video news releases (police footage of the actual pepper-spraying) and courtroom drawings are available through the media contact. Video images, legal documents, other background and links available at http// Press packets are available in the courtroom or through the media contact.

San Francisco The re-trial of a 1998 excessive force civil rights case that has been in San Francisco federal court since Sept. 8 is entering its final days. Plaintiffs will wrap up their case on Monday (9/20), and defense (Humboldt County Sheriffs Dept. and Eureka Police) will present their case through Wednesday, when closing arguments will be presented. The jury in the pepper spray by Q-tip trial will then determine whether eight activists' Fourth Amendment rights were violated when law enforcement inserted Q-tips soaked in liquid pepper spray directly into their eyes in rural northern California in 1997.

The activist plaintiffs were on the stand last week, following in-courtroom showings of the police videotapes showing them being doused with pepper spray-soaked Q-tips as they sat immobilized by lock-down devices. Prior to their testimony, law enforcement testified about their tactical escalation to the use of the caustic chemical in response to continuing non-violent civil disobedience actions to protect Headwaters redwood Forest.

The next witnesses on the stand include:

  • Continuation of questioning of then-chief deputy, now Sheriff Gary Philp, a named defendant
  • Humboldt County Risk Manager Kim Kerr
  • Then-Sheriff Dennis Lewis, a named defendant
  • Eureka Police Capt. Bill Honsal
  • Rhonda Pelligrini, who worked in Rep. Frank Riggs office when the sit-in occurred
  • Deputy Roy Reynolds
  • Deputy Phillip Daastol

Testimony has at times been moving and emotional, as when each of the eight plaintiffs-two of whom were teenagers at the time of the pepper spraying-testified about the traumatizing experience. It has also been lively and somewhat combative, as when flamboyant attorney Tony Serra elicited the admission from Pacific Lumber head of security Carl Anderson that he was indeed "smirking" as he watched the activists writhing in pain from the pepper spray, and that he had lobbed marbles at tree-sitters from a high-powered slingshot. Anderson had encouraged police to adopt a tougher stance against protesters.

Court is in session 8:30 a.m. to 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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