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Update on Torture by Pepperspray trial

This is a repost of an email I recieved from Jan Lundberg. His daughter Spring was a victim of the torture and is one of the plantifs in this horrendous case where Humbolt County cops forceably held down forest activists and sprayed pepperspray into thier eyes. When this did not work to cause activists to move, the cops sprayed dangerous chemicals into the faces of activists. The case is now in Federal court. Read on..
picture of Mike, a forest activist after he was tortured
picture of Mike, a forest activist after he was tortured
Culture Change e-Letter #75

An activist's memo on the pepper spray-by-Q-tip trial

by Jan Lundberg

As a Culture Change reader you have had your upcoming report on peak oil
delayed for a reason one could consider fascinating - to those who take
interest in civil rights and the struggle to save the remnants of the
ancient redwood forests. Since September 8th I have been attending the
trial of police and the County of Humboldt (California) who used
pepper-spray most innovatively to force nonviolent protesters into
"compliance" at three lock-down sit-ins in 1997.

Sheriff's deputies and the Eureka held the heads of teenage girls and
other activists, who were attached in steel sleeves to one another, and
with Q-tips wiped pepper-spray in the eyes of the protesters. When this
did not work fast enough to make them unlock, additional blasts of the
noxious chemical were applied within inches of the eyes of some
protesters. No female officers were used for the intensive full-body
law-man contact on the pepper-spray victims who were mostly females.

Not surprisingly, a civil rights trial on these events is being heard in
federal court in San Francisco. Judge Susan Illston is presiding over
eight plaintiffs (including my daughter Spring), their pro-bono lawyers,
and the potentially liable defendants who are law enforcement officials
and their bosses.

As the trial is entering its final phases, to culminate with a ruling from
the four-woman, four-man jury, right now I will not say much from my
emotional vantage point as a caring fellow activist (and father) who
viewed the tactics of the cops as torture. Video tapes were made by the
police and activists that have been shown in court and on news stations,
when the events occurred and the lawsuit was filed. A trial occurred in
1998, but after a hung jury the then-judge dismissed the case, claiming
that no jury would ever find the behavior of the cops to be excessive
force or unconstitutional.

But the appeals court and even the U.S. Supreme Court differed, so there
is a new trial, finally, with a new judge to replace the former one found
to be biased. The plaintiffs' legal team includes the flamboyant Tony
Serra who joined the lawyers who defeated the FBI and the Oakland Police
in another recent case: Earth First! activists were blamed by law
enforcement and the feds for a car bombing that injured only those same
plaintiffs who were ultimately successful in federal court; plaintiffs
were awarded $4.4 million.

The police in the Humboldt pepper-spray case are of course being painted
as angels by their lawyers, as if the cops' whole concern was for the
safety of the protesters and others. The jury is not getting to hear the
history of police brutality and violations of rights in Humboldt County in
connection with other logging protests. (I held a press conference on the
injuries suffered by protesters, in 1996.) However, the many details of
this case that are being heard include the fact that hundreds of times
nonviolent lock-down protests have occurred in efforts to slow the
clear-cutting of ancient trees, and all activists were extricated from
their binds using cutters and grinders without injury to anyone.

A representative of the pepper-spray manufacturer has been an expert
witness in this case to defend the chemical weapon's use, but more than
one observer at the trial saw the representative as not only biased but
the epitome of a fascistic scientific industrial establishment.
Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, they have not been allowed to have
medical expert-witnesses to counter the claims of the
manufacturer-representative who is paid to defend pepper-spray. The
chemical has been a factor in dozens of deaths in police custody, and the
plaintiffs are citing long-term effects from the experience.

Another unfortunate break against the plaintiffs was that there was not
one Black person in the jury pool. This was objected to, but the judge
denied the plaintiffs' motion to try again for a more representative jury.
Blacks have been subjected to police brutality more than other groups in
our society.

Instead of waiting for the next flurry of news stories on this case, you
can go to
< http://www.nopepperspray.org> and
< http://www.culturechange.org>. The lawyers have worked for free for the
plaintiffs for YOUR right to use civil disobedience in exercising free
speech and free assembly, to uphold the First and Fourth Amendments. But
there are legal costs apart from attorneys' fees that must be met - please
see the donation webpages in those websites for the pepper-spray
plaintiffs. Please help if you can, and pass this memo on to your friends
and to other websites.

The next Culture Change Letter is titled "Exiting the Age of Oil with
resolve." I hammered out a draft two weeks ago, offering the perspective
on peak oil from the standpoint of a former petroleum-industry analyst who
became an anti-oil activist. But I want the report to cover a lot of
ground with relatively few words. A lot of information has been coming
out, some of which must be countered, and the big picture is being
obscured with red herrings and false claims. You would have had this new
report on oil by now if I had not been in court each day observing and
offering modest help. (I noticed, for example, that the pepper-oil
extraction process was said to be done by solvents, which would have to
mean petrochemicals such as toluene - how can this be benign in the

Whether we be distracted by and from our forms of activism or the
challenge of obtaining sufficient support for concentrating on our issues
at Culture Change, we are now in a struggle to keep the website current,
functional and online! We are no longer receiving grants, as we have
evolved into a media service covering climate change, petroleum
dependence, sustainable living, and human rights. Our syndication is
growing (our prior essay "Doom and Gloom - Your Perception Calls the Tune"
is on Truthout.org, Mindfully.org, Bluegreenearth.com, etc.). The
challenge now is for Culture Change and yours truly to survive during this
time just prior to heightened relevance in petroleum issues and
alternatives to petroleum. Our archives online are rich in road-fighting,
car-free living, energy analysis, and other essential topics, with links
steadily added. Clearly, your support is vital for us to stay visible and
effective, and we thank you. Please see
< http://culturechange.org/funding.html>

We are looking for journalistic contributions for our various departments
which include Tools for Sustainability, Poetry Corner, Fall of Petroleum
Civilization, Global Warming Crisis Council, 9-11 and others. Let us hear
from you.

Last thought: On our website, see courtroom drawings of Plaintiffs' lawyer
Tony Serra as well as Dennis Cunningham who was demonstrating a "black
bear" lock sleeve before jury. Go to
< http://culturechange.org/e-letter-pspraymemo.html>

Thank you,

Jan Lundberg
Culture Change
P.O. Box 4347, Arcata, CA 95518 USA
Tel. 1-215-243-3144
email  info@culturechange.org
Feedback: < http://www.culturechange.org/e-letter-letters.html>

Prior coverage of the pepper-spray case on this website:
Hear a new song by a plaintiff and a duet between a pepper-sprayed
protester and her father at

homepage: homepage: http://culturechange.org/e-letter-pspraymemo.html

update summary 20.Sep.2004 08:20


I appreciate the update summary and I will indeed check this out further. Justice must be had!

IN BELLINGHAM WASH> 20.Sep.2004 10:24


street musician activist was punched BLOODY in the face by frat boy type.the cops barely questioned the assaulter a.didnt even handcuff him. cop was asking him ''his side of the story''.IF A BLACK MAN HAD PUCHED SOMEONE BLOODY< WOUKLD THE COPS BE ASKING HIM ""HIS SIDE OF THE STORY""??.no HE WOULD BE HANCUFFED AND SPREAD EAGLE AGAINST A WALL OR ON GROUND.!!!!!!!!!!!!! EXPOSE POKLICE TERRORISTS TO FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN IRAQ AND AFGANISTAN!!

pepper spray in eyes 20.Sep.2004 17:07


I've seen the video of these activists getting pepper spray applied directly to their eyes- it made me cringe and feel like vomiting. A purely visceral reaction to the thought of how it must have felt for them, but also a reaction to the fact that these cops could so deliberately and carefully torment these people who were unable to protect themselves (handcuffed).

criminal trial 20.Sep.2004 22:50

king friday

Hey. Has there been any attempt to bring criminal prosecution down on the pigs who actually did this?
I may be missing something, but I can't find anything about actual individual prosecution.

liberal misconceptions about how the world works 20.Sep.2004 23:09

lesson number 3, repetition 594

District Attorneys don't prosecute cops for anything. Cops can do what they want to you. If you can afford it, you can sue them. Welcome to the real world.