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Violent Response to Non-Violent Tree-Sit Rocks Eugene
by Ellen K. of Eugene Copwatch, Eugene PeaceWorks/War Resisters League

"Eugene Police employed the repeated use of pain, in a non-emergency situation, to change behavior. That, Mayor Torrey, is the definition of torture." --David Oaks, eyewitness, testifying to Eugene City Council June 2nd.

Extensively documented torture of nonviolent activists, supporters and bystanders by Eugene Police at a tree-cutting protest first shocked, then galvanized the Eugene community.

The City of Eugene provided a $12,000,000 subsidy allowing a corporation to knock down Broadway Grove, an impressive stand of historic 50+foot sweetgum, maple and black walnut trees, to build a parking garage and apartments. On June 1st, eleven Cascadia Forest Defenders trained in nonviolence perched themselves in the trees, without harnesses or platforms, in an attempt to save the trees at least until the next day's City Council meeting.

Police clearly risked these activists' lives by forcibly evicting them from the trees, without any safety nets, through repeated, several-second saturations of their eyes, feet and hands with pepper spray. Video of the events shows cops pulling the last tree sitter by his hair, cinching his belt, slugging him with baton, and using a pruning hook to grab his pants and spray him as he dangled precariously by his hands with his feet swinging. Yet the Mayor, who watched for six hours from his car, stated that police actions were proper, and police and public safety officials who had not even been present went on record as publicly exonerating the field force unit even before viewing witnesses' videotapes and photos.

Police rioted against onlookers as well. Videos show cops pulling a supporter from his bike and pummelling him on the concrete. Police are also seen shoving and pepper-spraying point-blank in the face people who are clearly complying with police orders to move to the sidewalk; police also used the pepper spray to literally soak those who did not move. Moreover, blinding, choking, sickening tear gas and pepper spray was repeatedly hurled at the crowd. This is evidenced in the Department of Public Safety's own videotape, in which Incident Commander Lieutenant Becky Hansen can clear-ly be overheard ordering one of her 30 riot-geared officers to "Initiate the MPG [tear gas] for the 'We Speak for the Trees' sign."

Though the particular trees have been lost, this incident forged and solidified a broad coalition of groups of radical and non-violent activists, mainstream neighborhood associations, liberals, homeless people, cop-watchers, and communities of color, decrying police officers' brutality and city officials' pandering to corporations rather than listening to their constituency.

Since June, City Council unanimously approved the Human Rights Commission's appointments to a panel which will draft a proposal for an external review board of police misconduct. The 16- member panel will include members of Eugene Copwatch and this article's author, who is affiliated with a homeless empowerment movement.

Meanwhile, city manager Vikki Elmer brought in the Oregon State Police to hire seven full time staff people to conduct an 'external' investigation. No one is perfectly pleased by this: protestors argue that it is not an external investigation since conducted by another law enforcement agency...an agency which had members on site during the incident and thus has a vested interest in exoneration. All 29 police officers present at the June 1st incident have signed a pact to "plead the fifth" and not cooperate with this or any criminal investigation!

Ellen Klowden and others in Copwatch, PeaceWorks, and the homeless empowerment movement have been involved as witnesses, videographers, testifiers, peacekeepers, press conference participants, cable show commentators, and in consultation with the city manager, police chief, head of public safety, and human rights commission. Contact Ellen at (541)484- 4390 or e-mail her at psu02368@odin.cc.pdx.edu.

This article was also submitted to NonViolent Action, a publication of the War Resisters League.

  [People's Police Report]

August, 1997
Also in PPR #12

Chief Undoes Council Misconduct Vote
Police Shootings, Shootings of Police
 • 18 Years: One Dead Cop, 100s of Dead Workers
 • What is a Hero?

Drug-Free Zones Modified
Day Laborers Resist Immigration Raids
Sheriff Wants Double-Bunking in Jail
Eugene Cops Attack Peaceful Tree-Sit
Updates PPR #12:
 • Beanbag Bullets Now on the Beat
 • Special Duty
 • Pepper Spray to be Banned in Berkeley?
 • Cop-Friendly Capitalism
 • Police Spying Update (again!)
 • Hawthorne Copwatching Update
 • Grant to Copwatch: Update

Report: National Conference in Phillie
Quick Flashes PPR #12:
 • Slap on the Wrist for Rapist Cop
 • Sacramento Cops Target Zapatista Supporters
 • ACLU Updates Police Abuse Manual
 • Portland Copwatch in Media, at Conference

Reviews of 'Zines
Rapping Back #12

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #12 Table of Contents
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