Anti-Pesticide Activist Tasered by Oregon Cops


Josh Schlossberg
Portland Indymedia
June 4, 2008

Hotel
EPD Officer after using a taser on a University of Oregon student on May 30 for demonstrating against roadside spraying of pesticides in Lane County, Oregon.  

On May 30 Eugene police repeatedly tasered a UO student organizer at a peaceful downtown rally supporting an end to toxic roadside pesticide spraying in Lane County, Oregon. EPD wrongfully arrested 2 students and one community member collectively known as “The Kesey Three” — as the events took place at Eugene’s Ken Kesey “Free Speech” Plaza.

2 Gatherings for Peace in Support of “The Kesey Three”
(Eugene anti-pesticide rally participants wrongfully tasered and arrested)

1) Gathering for Peace in Support of “The Kesey Three”: Thursday, June 5 from 12 – 3 at the EMU Amphitheater, University of Oregon, Eugene.

Gather in support of the University of Oregon student wrongfully tasered and arrested and the student and community member who were also wrongfully arrested at a peaceful gathering on May 30 in support of a plan to end roadside spraying of deadly pesticides in Lane County.

Come wear a white armband to speak out against police brutality and the use of tasers in policing.

2) Gather in Support of “The Kesey Three” on Saturday, June 7 in Kesey Square (Willamette / Broadway) at 12 noon. We will gather together silently.

 

Many will have an “X” painted over their mouths or will be wearing tape over their mouths as a statement of how the police are trying to silence free speech with their violence.

Flyers will be silently handed to those with questions.

Carly Barnicle, co-organizer of Crazy People for Wild Places(www.crazypeopleforwildplaces.com)of Friday’s rally and eyewitness to the events says: “This act of violence is a blatant example of how the Eugene Police Department does not know how to effectively use their power for peace. The police should use their power to maintain peace in the community and communicate their concerns with citizens rather than employ immediate force.”

Citizen eye-witness account sent to Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy:

May 30, 2008

Mayor Piercy:

Despite the shaky political ground you might feel this puts you on, I am asking for your decisive leadership regarding Friday’s use of a taser as pain-compliance torture by the Eugene Police Department against an 140 lb peaceful UO student organizer.

A taser’s purpose is to use in a situation when an officer is in danger – someone with a weapon, say – not to use electrocution and pain to make it more convenient for the officer to make an arrest.

Despite what irresponsible media coverage claims, it wasn’t even really a “protest” but a rally in support of and to raise visibility for Lane County choosing to end toxic pesticide use on roadsides, which will be discussed at a June 11 County Commissioner’s meeting.

The rally, which I helped out a little with, was organized by 2 easy going UO students: Carly Barnicle and Ian Van Ornum, and was the mellowest rally I think I have ever attended, with speakers speaking in celebration of health and life and against the use of deadly, toxic chemicals on a sunny day in the Kesey “Free Speech” Plaza on Broadway/Willamette.

The flyer rally had called for attendees to wear costumes, and several people did, roughly 8 of us, including myself, wearing white plastic jumpsuits as an obvious caricature of a “hazmat” suit and blue hospital masks over our faces, some of us holding banners. Also included as a prop in the rally was a small pump sprayer filled with water with a huge cartoon skull drawn on the front, prominently displayed on an information table for most of the rally (about an hour).

A few times during the later part of the rally, Ian and others would participate in street theater by walking around the plaza and on the sidewalk, spraying flower pots and the sidewalk with water as an obvious mock pesticide spraying. I had seen Ian always crossing the street in the crosswalk and remaining on the sidewalk to act out this theater (the sick thing is even if it were pesticides and not water it’s actually legal to spray real poison in our city!).

About 1hr and 20 minutes into the rally, when most of the 50 rally goers had left – including the KLCC reporter and prominent citizens such as Lisa Arkin, executive director of Oregon Toxics Alliance, who gave a speech at the rally in support of Lane County restricting herbicides on roadsides – and the rally was basically open mic for anyone who wanted to share their opinion or experiences with herbicides, I saw bike police arrive on the scene.

I then watched 2 officers approach Ian as he was standing on the sidewalk and though I did not hear the verbal exchange, I saw them grab Ian by the shoulders and arms, drag him across the street, I believe throw him against the wall, then another 2 officers arrived and one (possibly Officer Willis, Badge # 26) took out and deployed a taser which knocked Ian to the pavement, the officer then kneed Ian in the back, grabbed his long hair and slammed his head down hard on the pavement and then tasered him at least another two times with Ian lying on the ground face down with hands already behind his back — handcuffed — writhing in pain and screaming “why, why?”

I am uncertain as to how the situation with the other two who were arrested, transpired, but I know I was part of the 20 of us who ran up to the scene pleading that the police stop tasering Ian as he lay on the ground – 4 police weighing total 850 lbs repeatedly electrocuting a 140 lb college kid who did not appear to be resisting and without cause. Though it sounds corny to those who aren’t “protesting in the streets” on a regular basis, there are some of us who honestly believe that the EPD is a rogue agency that routinely uses violence against peaceful citizens without provokation, which honestly makes us fear them and view them as merely a city-sanctioned gang of thugs preying on good people.

I am sickened by yet another total lack of judgment and restraint by the EPD, which seems insistent on digging the hole for themselves even deeper. I’m starting to wonder if the EPD even cares about public relations, and if they don’t, then there must be such entrenched corruption in the department that they know they are accountable to no one except themselves and their own meaningless internal review process.

Mayor Piercy, I want to thank you for your admirable role in creating the police auditor position. While it is not as strong as it needs to be, I am relieved it exists. In my opinion the outcome of this very situation that unfolded today will decide whether or not the auditor function has any teeth at all or is just window dressing.

Many of us are issuing police complaints for brutality and demanding disciplinary action against the officers involved, including their termination, as well as and end to the use of tasers by the unruly EPD.

For the record, despite the seemingly fabricated EPD press release and irresponsible media coverage, I don’t believe the police reaction had ANYTHING to do with the obviously cartoon-skull sprayer being used by someone in an obviously fake “hazmat” suit with writing all over it (there were a bunch of us in the white suits all over the plaza). Important: while over a dozen cops were standing there, I picked up the sprayer right in front of them so they could see me doing it and none of them said or did a thing to stop me, which proved to me that they were well aware that the cannister with the big cartoon skull on it was nothing but a harmless prop.

If the cops really believed it was poison, why would they not have taken the “evidence” while it was lying on the ground unattended for several minutes, or when I deliberately picked it up so they could see, or while I was parading around with it for two hours afterward?

Regarding Ian’s character, he is beloved among the university students, and is as kind and gentle soul as you can meet. Let’s hope this incident doesn’t make him hard and bitter.

Before police brought fear and hurt into our event, KLCC and R-G were going to do stories on the ISSUE OF PESTICIDE ROAD SPRAYING, which was the only point of the damn rally. Now all media coverage of the issue is being supplanted by such headlines as “Violent Protest” (WTF?) and similar media sensationalizing. Was it the intention of police to squelch the rights of people in a free speech plaza from getting out the message that pesticides harm life (human, animal, ecosystem)? Well if it wasn’t the intent, that was certainly the result.

You know, I spoke to a parent today who told me he doesn’t know what to teach his 2 year old daughter about the role of the police in our town, whether or not the police are people you can go to when you are in trouble or in danger or hurt. Seriously, this is what he said to me: he’s trying to figure out whether or not to teach his child that police can protect you from harm.

Mayor Piercy, just what kind of effect is the EPD’s behavior having on our communities? When will the violations of public trust end? Is Eugene even a safe place to raise kids anymore?

I’m just not sure anymore if Eugene is the kind of town where I want to settle down in and maybe consider starting a family someday. This place is actually starting to scare me. What’s happening here and when will things start getting safer for those of us who speak our minds and advocate for change for the benefit of life on Earth?

Mayor Piercy, I have greatly appreciated your communications and efforts regarding my past incidents with police on Critical Mass. I ask that you continue to step up to the plate to do your utmost to protect the citizens of Eugene from what appears to be a rogue, outlaw agency by demanding accountability for this most recent act of violence directed towards the public from the EPD.

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