No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters


For immediate release                                                                  
April 15, 2005

Pepper Spray Q-Tip Case Enters Second Week
Plaintiffs, Law Enforcement on Witness Stand
Solidarity Rally at Civic Center Monday

Contact:  Karen Pickett, 510-548-3113

San Francisco, Calif.-A jury has been listening to testimony about an unprecedented use of liquid pepper spray on protesters engaged in sit-ins for Headwaters Forest in 1997. The jury will decide whether that use of the caustic chemical was "excessive force" when used against non-violent protesters. 

Following court on Monday a Solidarity Rally will be held at 2:30 pm at Civic Center Plaza featuring speakers from CopWatch and Global Exchange, music by Joanne Rand, Mokai, and Spring Lundberg, and statements from the legal team and the Pepper Spray Eight. 

Court sessions continue through Thursday next week  at the S.F. Federal Building (450 Golden Gate Ave. at Polk St., 19th floor, Courtroom 10) before the Hon. Susan Illston. Court schedule is 8:30 am -1:30 pm except Monday April 18, when the schedule is 9:30 am-2:30 pm.

Opening arguments were presented on Wednesday, April 13, followed by testimony from three of the eight plaintiffs who are suing Humboldt County Sheriff's Dept. and Eureka Police for violation of their 4th Amendment Constitutional rights.  As each of the plaintiffs who were subjected to liquid pepper spray applications directly onto their eyes testified, police video footage documenting the incidents was aired in the hushed courtroom. Lawyers also demonstrated the metal "lock-boxes" protesters used to secure their sit-in, and showed the electric grinder tool used in scores of previous Humboldt county protests to effect arrests of locked-in demonstrators, but which police eschewed in favor of a new "get tough" policy that included Q-tip swabbing of pepper spray in the eyes.

Sheriffs' Deputy Marvin Kirkpatrick testified on Thursday 4/14 that he advocated increasing the dose of pepper spray and waiting longer to provide first aid for coercive purposes. He said direct application of pepper spray results in what "some people refer to as pain."

Expected on the stand Monday are:
--Deputy Sheriff Marvin Kirkpatrick, part of the "Earth First! Special Response Team" who applied pepper spray by Q-tip and spray in all three incidents.

--Humboldt Sheriff Gary Philp (named defendant) who researched and approved the use of pepper spray against forest protesters

--former Humboldt Sheriff Dennis Lewis, who instituted the "get tough" policy with demonstrators in Humboldt county

--Lisa Sanderson-Fox, plaintiff  who was swabbed with pepper spray at the sit-in at then-Congressman Frank Riggs' office in Eureka.

Legal documents, other background and links are available at . Press packets including video footage and courtroom drawings by court artist K. Rudin are available through the above contact number.


Top of this page | Home | Press Release Archive Index