No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters


For immediate release
April 26, 2005, 2 pm

Pepper Spray Civil Rights Case Goes To Jury

Contacts:  Karen Pickett, media phone: 510-548-3113

San Francisco--After closing arguments in federal district court today, the Pepper Spray By Q-Tip civil rights case was given to the eight-person jury to decide the questions of 4th Amendment Constitutional rights violations and excessive force by the Humboldt County Sheriffs' Dept. and Eureka Police.

In dramatic closing statements that illustrated sharp differences between the two sides, four attorneys contributed to closing arguments: Dennis Cunningham and Tony Serra for the plaintiffs and Nancy Delaney and William Bragg for the defendants. Lead attorney Dennis Cunningham invoked past civil disobedience in U.S. history, such as the Suffragette Movement when women chained themselves to the White House and sit-down strikes for the eight hour work day.  Cunningham argued that while the plaintiffs were moved by their principles to act on behalf of the old-growth redwood forest, police responding to their sit-ins had several alternatives at their disposal before moving to the extreme tactic of inserting pepper spray directly into their eyes.

Defense attorney Bill Bragg, on the other hand, invoked visions of "empower[ing] men in white sheets to come into churches and chant, 'Send them back to Africa!', empower[ing] an ex-spouse to come in at Thanksgiving and lock down to the dinner table, empower[ing] men with swastikas to march into synagogues and yell, "Kill the Jews!" if plaintiffs prevail in what Bragg called a "small group imposing its beliefs on others."

The jury went home for the day at 2:30 p.m.  They will deliberate on Wednesday from 8:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and at that time reveal their schedule for the remainder of the week, if they have not reached a verdict by mid-day Wednesday.

Background and legal documents available at Press packets including video footage and courtroom drawings are available through the above number.


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