Home > Uncategorized > Humboldt’s history of pepper spray recalled

Humboldt’s history of pepper spray recalled

Donna Tam's article in today's Times-Standard reminds readers that activists in Humboldt County were occupying before the Occupy movement, and police unjustifiably used pepper spray on them despite their passive, peaceful protests.

In 1997, forest activists occupied the offices of Pacific Lumber (RIP) and Congressman Frank Riggs to protest Maxxam Corporation’s appalling laws-be-damned logging of ancient redwoods.

Humboldt County Sheriffs gleefully assumed the role of Maxxam’s personal police agency and invented a new kind of torture to punish the protesters — by dipping Q-tips in Dixie cups of pepper spray and swabbing the burning stuff directly into the eyes of non-violent activists.

But even here in Humboldt County, where abuse of power by police against activists who pose no threat to them or anyone else is part of contemporary history, the images coming out of UC Davis, Oakland and elsewhere are shocking to behold.

And that is why such tactics by police will fail. The highest ideals of what it means to be a United States American are at the heart of the Occupy movement, because that is what is under attack by corporations, banks, the Supreme Court and the politicians who serve the 1%. Police repression against people peacefully assembled is offensive at the deepest of levels and will not succeed in keeping down those whose freedoms and opportunities are swirling down the golden toilet of the super rich.

  1. November 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Well put Heraldo.

    Yesterday… wanting to show support for OWS I joined their FB page but realized its not that easy to stand up with masked anons who post conspiracy theories re: our president (I did read the article). When we see more Dorlis standing up without a mask it will be a safer place to exercise freedom of speech with or without pepper spray.

    Between our planet hitting the 7 Billion inhabitants mark-wasn’t it just a short time ago we hit 6 Billion? and Stephen Hawking saying we need to save the human race by colonizing other planets its no wonder some who have much are hoarders…

    We need to work together to ensure everyone has enough.

  2. Anonymous
    November 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Occupy Humboldt County

    The Occupy movement has awakened us to something we all knew, but hardly anybody was saying: WE HAVE BEEN OCCUPIED. Not by people in tents, but by Wall Street banks and corporations. Our elected representatives scurry to do their business. Our police are made to serve them, and treat ordinary citizens like insurgents. Our County Courthouse looks like the Green Zone because the Occupy people tried to take back a patch of lawn to say to us: wake up.

    Now that we’re awake, let’s broaden the issue beyond illegal camping and biohazards. The homeless among the Occupy groups deserve our strongest support and recognition of their basic human rights. People wrongly arrested and falsely imprisoned should have legal defense. [see humrights.org] Charges should be filed against those responsible for violence against persons and property.

    And now that we’re awake, take a look around. It’s true: we are an occupied country. Corporate dollars are protected speech and they have the dollars. We are out-gunned, out-spent, and out-voted even when we win elections.

    Now that people are awake, it’s time to find the common cause in all our causes. To find a common voice and speak common sense. Health is wealth. Ecology is economy. To restore those basic values, to re-occupy our work places and our homes and our lives, will require all of us. Young and old, working and jobless and retired, nurses and secretaries, farmers and waitresses and vets, teachers and trades people: WE ARE THE 99%.

    All are invited to a General Assembly in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. There will be speakers and music and conversation. There will be opportunities to form alliances.

    Let’s be thankful for what we’ve managed to hang on to, and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. Then let’s talk about the next move. Bring the family. Bring a friend.

    SATURDAY NOVEMBER 26, 2011 1-3

  3. Outraged Eurekan
    November 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    The Pepper Swab Incident was another one of attorney Nancy Delaney’s many sorry legacies. Hired by the county and city of Eureka to defend themselves from lawsuit brought by those who had been swabbed, she insisted on re-litigating it over and over, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, both parties still being found guilty in the end. If she wasn’t a stalwart member of the county good ol’ boys club, she would have been run out of town by now or disbarred.

    Instead, the dysfunctional city continue to retain her as its attorney. She used the same losing strategy with the recent excessive force lawsuit by Martin Cotton’s (died in custody after a struggle with the EPD) daughter.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Eureka hired her still again. Is she sleeping with Dave Tyson or something?

  4. November 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Where’s the LIke button?

  5. Eric Kirk
    November 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    What’s kind of amusing is that Wavy Gravy, a few days ago, joked that Congress had voted to declare pepper spray a vegetable. But then Megan whats’-her-name on Fox News turned around yesterday and dismissed it as a “food product.”

    “I gave up satire the day they gave Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize.” – Tom Lehrer

  6. November 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    There have been protests and rallies through out our history, but I’m getting the distinct impression that the United States Government never thought the populace would actually ever exercise “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

    This is of course from the first amendment to the United States Constitution and it seems to me that any laws local governments are making to infringe on our right to assemble is in contradiction to the wording of this amendment: “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    (from Cornell Law website:) The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) OR OTHER GOVERNMENTAL ACTION. It works with the right of assembly by allowing people to join together and seek change from the government.

    I’ve long heard people ask “what was the Founders’ intent” when trying to interpret how constitutional rights should be applied today. If they in fact imagined that people from through out the thirteen colonies might one day travel to Philadelphia (then the seat of the Federal government), to assemble and to petition the government, well, that would have taken some people days and others weeks as they were limited to walking or riding on horseback. So as they waited for their fellow citizen to arrive, and once having done so, and all the while they worked toward consensus on how to word their grievances, don’t you think that most of them would have been camping?

    As to using brutal tactics to break up a protest, that we have a long and storied history of.

    Here’s one from this date (Nov 23rd) in 1903:
    Determined to crush the union of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM),Colorado Governor James Peabody sends the state militia into the mining town of Cripple Creek. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/colorado-governor-sends-militia-to-cripple-creek

  7. Occupy This!
    November 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    As usual, I’m not sure what your point is.

    “… under attack by corporations, banks, the Supreme Court and the politicians who serve the 1%.”

    If these radicals had any sense they would be camping (not Occupying) Congressman Mike Thompson’s office, not the courthouse lawn.

    Why don’t we elect politicians who wills serve the people, and not corporations?

    We can start with a new Congressman not financed by the corporations (there goes Huffman).

    Next let’s get two new US Senators who will make a difference.

  8. November 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Pepper-Spraying Protesters Is Just the Beginning: Here Are More Hypermilitarized Weapons Your Local Police Force Could Employ:


  9. Walt
    November 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    The tradition goes back even further, Richard: in 1794 Washington himself led an army of 13,000 against activists in Western Pennsylvania opposing Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s tax on corn to make whiskey. Seems the country had gotten itself way into debt during the war, and Hamilton was determined to get the money back to the creditors. Many of the 13,000 were drafted, and there were riots about that, too. Bottom line: Washington wanted to make it clear the revolution was OVER. The disturbance was later called the “Whiskey Rebellion.”

  10. FoxStudio
    November 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    The reviews being posted on Amazon for the brand of pepper spray Pike used are a single note of hilarity in something that otherwise isn’t remotely funny. http://www.amazon.com/Defense-Technology-56895-Stream-Pepper/dp/B0058EOAUE/

  11. jr
    November 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    U.C. Davis English Dept has called for the Campus Police to be disbanded. See http://www.noyonews.net

  12. November 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Those concerned about government use of force on the citizenry really should follow Radley Balko’s blog. He covers it all the time, along with other stuff:

  13. November 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    “Instead, the dysfunctional city continue to retain her as its attorney. She used the same losing strategy with the recent excessive force lawsuit by Martin Cotton’s (died in custody after a struggle with the EPD) daughter.”

    There’s no argument here about what a horrendous lawyer (human?) Delaney is, but I want to point out the subtle brainwashing that seems to have seeped into (and out of ) the comment. Martin cotton was not in a “struggle” with EPD, as Delaney and Harpham and Thadeus Greenson would like us to believe. Martin Cotton was prone on the ground while EPD’ Justing Winkle bashed his head into the concrete, Adam Laird and Gary Whitmer and Joshua Siipola and others kicked, batoned, pepper sprayed and pummeled Martin’s body. This was not a fight or struggle, this was a lethal attack on a defenseless person.

    It would behoove us to remember that language can perpetuate lies. That is why Delaney (unsuccessfully) tried to say that Martin was in a “struggle” with officers. My experience is that most of the time officers are beating on people who are doing nothing back; when they do something back, they are even more likely to get killed.

  14. Load Me Another
    November 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I’ll be watching the Macy’s parade tomorrow hoping to get a glimpse of the NYPD Pepper Spray Drill Team. Also hoping to see Occupy’s float entry featuring Miss Occupy and her court. Happy Thanksgiving.

  15. Decline To State
    November 24, 2011 at 7:53 am

    While I don’t condone the Sheriff’s handling of the 1997 pepper spray incident and do support the Occupy movement I must question the “peacefulness” of the ’97 protest.

    It began with a loud, boisterous group of people, without warning, crashing into the Congressman’s office with a tree stump, pipes and chains terrifying not only the people working in the office but the one’s in the adjoining offices (there were 2 floors of small businesses other than Riggs’s office in the building, my sister’s across the hall being one) sending office workers running for the doors and leaving others, fearing for their safety, to hide under counters and desks for protection. This is no way to begin a “peaceful” protest.

  16. Anonymous
    November 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Verbana’s back! Thank goodness she’s around to muddy the waters of the occupy protest. If it wasn’t for agitators like her, we really would have something to worry about.


    The 1%

  17. November 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I just reposted something I wrote about the original pepper spray swab incident on my Published and Unpublished Works blog a mere few days ago because of what happened.

    Incidentally, while I’ve never been pepper sprayed by police, I have actually done it to the police in secret back in my younger, wilder days. Seems fitting.

  18. humboldturkey
    November 24, 2011 at 8:19 am


  19. November 24, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Let me Load the next one.

    …..”crashing into the Congressman’s office”

    The office workers were so scared they locked the crashers in the office while Humboldt County Sheriffs papered the windows so no one could see the torture as it began.
    Outside, screams is all one could hear.

  20. Plain Jane
    November 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

    It’s strange that it isn’t legal for interrogators to use pepper spray on suspected terrorists but law enforcement can use it on nonviolent protesters, not that I think either should be legal.

  21. William Verick
    November 27, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Re: Nancy Delaney.

    There is no doubt that she is part of the Humboldt County entitled elite. Just like Debbie August, the laws would never be brought to bear against Nancy Delaney unless she did something completely beyond the pale of what the local elite allow amongst themselves. Like molest one of Arkley’s grandkids or cheat old many Guinnip out of gravel rights or something.

    But on defending the Frank Riggs pepper spray cops, continuing the litigation beyond all reason was not Ms. Delaney’s call. That call was made by the City’s insurance provider, just as it would be the insurance provider’s call whether to litigate or appeal if you were involved in an accident and someone sued you..

    In the Humboldt County pepper spray litigation, Nancy Delaney was — in the words of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now — just an errand boy for a grocery clerk.

    Activists throughout the West should also be grateful to the City’s insurance provider for appealing this case so many times to the Ninth Circuit. What this did was to establish as binding precedent in the Ninth Circuit, that it was a 4th Amendment unreasonable seizure to pepper spray non-violent, non-threatening demonstrators. What this means for the folks in Davis is that when they bring Section 1983 lawsuits against U.C. Davis for violating their constitutional rights under color of state authority, U.C. will not be able to avail itself ot “qualified immunity.” Qualified immunity is judge-created law that says that law enforcement officials have immunity from Section 1983 suits — even if they did indeed violate your constitutional rights — unless there is clear on-point precedent in effect that shows that their actions were, indeed, illegal.

    You can thank Nancy Delaney and the City’s insurance provider for helping to dispose of that odious argument U.C. Davis would have been sure to raise.

  22. Yoohoo
    November 27, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Since the city of Eureka is self insured I guess we AND the Davis occupiers can all thank Dave Tyson as well.

    Thanks Dave.

    It is the unintended consequence of unbridled egotism and narcissism displayed daily by Mr. Dave.

  23. Anonymous
    November 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    A. Nancy Delaney is known to be a fabulous attorney.

    B. Arkley has no grandchildren to date.

  24. William Verick
    November 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Nancy Delaney may be a fabulous (or grimly competent) attorney but even a fabulous attorney can lose a bad case. Bad facts (for cities and cops in this case) made bad law (for cities and cops) and all Nancy Delaney’s horses and all Nancy Delaney’s men couldn’t unmake that (bad for cops and cities) precedent again.

    By the way, the original judge in the Humboldt pepper spray case was Vaughn Walker, Mr. Gay Marriage himself. The Ninth Circuit removed him as biased.

    As for Arkley’s hypothetical grandkids,when they actually are manifested (if ever) they will have other more pertinent things to worry about than Nancy Delaney. Still, local elites would shun her, and local judges would allow her prosecution, if — in the event Arkley ever gets grandkids — Delaney were to molest them.

    She would never dine at the Ingomar Club again.

  25. G.Shieman
    November 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    The Humboldt County pepperspray cases and trials. Complete online website…with briefs, motions, court opinions, other legal papers, photos, courtroom art…huge site:


    Also: Tony Serra.. lead civil rights lawyer.. his sites

    and his office in San Francisco:
    Law Office Tony Serra

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s