FOREST ACTIVIST TO SUE CITY OF EUGENE FOR POLICE MISCONDUCT
On Friday, August 7, Josh Schlossberg and attorney Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center filed a tort claim notice against the City of Eugene regarding a March 13, 2009 incident where Schlossberg was falsely arrested, injured, and jailed by Eugene Police Department Officer Bill Solesbee while Schlossberg was legally distributing brochures from the edge of a public sidewalk in front of Umpqua Bank in downtown Eugene.
Schlossberg, a local forest activist, was civilly informing bank customers of the irresponsible logging and harmful pesticide practices of Umpqua's chairman of the board, Allyn Ford.
This incident of unlawful police misconduct is another in a growing list of alarming incidences where EPD officers have violated basic first amendment constitutional rights of Eugene citizens, while using excessive force, seemingly directed at chilling free speech in the politically charged, left-leaning city of Eugene.
Schlossberg's lawsuit is based on claims of deprivation of civil rights, interference with constitutionally protected activities, false arrest and imprisonment, failure to train and supervise law enforcement, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and gross negligence, as well as claims based upon deprivations of federal and state constitutional rights, including cruel and unusual punishment. As expected, acting Chief of Police Pete Kerns once again rubber-stamped the actions of Officer Solesbee by failing to admonish or correct the flagrant unconstitutional conduct of this police officer.
Schlossberg continues to suffer acute and chronic pain and discomfort from a neck injury brought on by Solesbee during the arrest.
The charges of "intercepting communications" and "resisting arrest" were dropped after prosecutors viewed Schlossberg's confiscated digital video footage clearly showing him legally standing at the edge of a public sidewalk. The tape shows Officer Solesbee illegally demanding he leave-which Schlossberg is in the process of doing, while stating to Solesbee that he believes the officer is in error for forcing him to leave the public sidewalk. Solesbee falsified police reports and attempted to file unwarranted charges against Schlossberg as a result of this incident; and the Chief of police has ratified this dishonest conduct once again.
Solesbee's police report claims Schlossberg was "concealing" a videocamera ("intercepting communications"), yet Schlossberg's audio/video footage shows Solesbee verbally acknowledging being filmed.
Solesbee is shown on the video footage demanding Schlossberg's camera. When Schlossberg refused to give him the camera (video footage ends here), Solesbee charged Schlossberg, wrenched his arm behind his back, forced him to the ground where Schlossberg hit his head, and proceeded to place a knee on Schlossberg's previously injured neck, while handcuffing and arresting him. Solesbee's police report states he charged Schlossberg with "resisting arrest" simply because Schlossberg "tensed" during the arrest. Schlossberg was lodged in solitary confinement in the Lane County Jail and was refused the right to contact his attorney until being released from custody later that night.
In July of 2008, Schlossberg filed a citizen complaint against Officer Solesbee after witnessing a May 30 anti-pesticide demonstration, where Schlossberg maintains that Solesbee used excessive force while arresting Ian Van Ornum whereby the officer deliberately slammed Van Ornum's skull into the pavement.
Schlossberg says: "I can't say with absolute certainty that Officer Solesbee specifically targeted me as retribution for filing a complaint against him last year, or for my role as an outspoken political organizer, but there's no question in my mind that Solesbee and other members of the EPD have shown a blatant disregard for the constitutionally granted, first amendment rights of Eugene citizens, and that little has been done by the City of Eugene to discourage this disturbing criminal behavior."
Attorney Lauren Regan added, "We have seen a disturbing trend regarding police response to activists and their constitutionally protected activities. By utilizing a militarized presence, heavy-handed tactics, tasers, and unjustifiable arrests against nonviolent citizens, law enforcement is attempting to scare people into silence and apathy. This case will determine whether the citizens of Eugene still have the constitutional right to lawfully convey thoughts and ideas to their fellow citizens in public forums-a quintessential principle of our democracy."
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