No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters
For immediate release
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Jury Finds Sheriffs Use Of Pepper Spray Unconstitutional
Press Conference at noon Friday, April 29, 2005, outside the San Francisco Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Ave. (at Polk St.)
Contacts: Heidi Terbrack, (707) 496-7645 Media Office: (510) 548-3113
San Francisco-After only twelve hours of deliberation, the federal jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that Humboldt County Sheriffs used excessive force when they swabbed pepper spray into the eyes of forest activists. The jurors found that former Sheriff Dennis Lewis and current Sheriff Gary Philp approved illegal use of force on passive protestors. The jury also held the City and County liable for its officers’ unconstitutional actions.
Plaintiff Spring Lundberg was thrilled by the decision. “We won a unanimous YES! This was excessive force and the decision will reverberate to law enforcement across the country. This is a hard-won victory for preserving all our civil liberties.”
The jury awarded nominal damages to each plaintiff. Elated activist Sam Neuwirth said, “This is what I wanted. This case has never been about money. It’s about the jury saying they respect people who stand up for their beliefs and that the police can’t do whatever they want.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Serra agreed, “We were always in it for the principle and not for the money. The police’s application of pepper spray to the eyes of non-violent activists was akin to torture and today’s verdict should help to keep it from ever happening again.”
The activists injured by the sheriffs’ applications of pepper spray sued the Humboldt County Sheriffs' Dept. and Eureka Police in fall of 1997, arriving at the current trial in federal court in San Francisco after two previous trials that ended without verdict.
“ Brutalizing peaceful protesters will not be tolerated,” said plaintiff Noel Tendick. “This victory rings in the hearts of any who would peacefully stand up for their beliefs. Onward!”
For immediate release:
April 28, 2005, 5:30pm
Victory for Forest Activists in Pepper Spray Trial
Jury Finds Sheriffs Used Excessive Force
Contacts Heidi Terbrack, (707) 496-7645
Media Office (510) 548-3113
San Francisco--After three days of deliberations, a federal jury returned a verdict finding that Humboldt County Sheriffs used excessive force when they daubed liquid pepper spray into the eyes of forest activists.
The eight activist plaintiffs were arrested in 1997 at three separate protests in Humboldt County as they worked to save the Headwaters Forest from logging.
The unprecedented application of pepper spray on passive, immobile protesters was part of a "get tough policy" implemented by the County as more and more people protested liquidation logging of redwoods in Northern California.
The activists injured by the sheriffs’ applications of pepper spray sued the Humboldt County Sheriffs' Dept. and Eureka Police in 1997, arriving at the current trial in federal court in San Francisco after two previous trials that ended without verdict.
Background and legal documents available at http://www.nopepperspray.org .
Press packets including video footage and courtroom drawings are available through the media office
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