North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Oct. 31, 2002

Incident at the incident

Local religious leaders: Iraq war unjust

Eureka mayor does have clout

Payton denies abuse

Tragedy strikes

Birds attacked

Incident at the incident


It's a play on words: Concerts by the popular Colorado-based jam band the String Cheese Incident are known as "incidents." When the band came to town last Wednesday night for a show at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium, the word took on new meaning as an unruly crowd outside caused a near riot in an attempt to gain admission.

This reporter was at the concert, and by chance witnessed the prelude to this incident at the incident. The Muni was packed with people, around 1,900 according to the promoter, and when the band took a break at about 8:30 p.m. it was time for me to leave.

Departing was not easy. The plainclothes security force had declared a "no ins and outs" policy. Those who left through the front doors gave up the wristbands they were given on admission and could not return. Anyone else who wanted to get some air outside was directed to a side door where a smoking area was cordoned off.

Since I was not returning, I exited through the front into a large crowd -- well over 100, perhaps 200, partying people who had no tickets. On the west side of the Muni I saw the smoking zone, a crowded area demarcated with caution tape, patrolled by several plain- clothes guards. A number of people without tickets lingered on the sidewalk eyeing the guards.

As I walked by I overheard a conversation between two of them. A young, very intoxicated black man was telling his blond, dreadlocked companion, "If we rush the line all together, some of us will get through. I might go down, but if some of us get in, it'll be worth it." His friend replied, `"Awesome. It'll be like Braveheart, let's go for it."

My impression was that this was just the beer talking and I went on my way. The following day I learned that they followed through with the plan.

The Journal got a call from Denise Wood, who was among those in the smoking area when I went by. She wanted to let us know that there had been a case of what she termed "police brutality" outside the concert.

"There were 20 people standing around on the sidewalk trying to talk the security people into letting them in," said Wood in a call from her Trinidad home. "[They were] mostly young, a lot of people with dreadlocks, but varied. There was one individual who was being really obnoxious, a little black guy. He definitely seemed to be altered, either really drunk or something. He was trying to get in, security kept escorting him back to the sidewalk."

According to the Eureka Police, the black man was James Anestor, a 22-year-old transient with no known address who came to the concert from Arcata. According to Matt, a member of the crew guarding the smoking area who asked that his last name not be used, Anestor was clearly drunk and "probably on 'shrooms" (psychedelic mushrooms).

"The black guy [Anestor] tried to push his way past," said Matt. "He came up to me, pushed me and spit in my face. I'm a non-violent person. When he pushed me and spit in my face all I did was say, `Go back to the sidewalk.' And he did."

As the crowd grew, Matt got nervous, in part because those in the smoking section, the paid concert-goers, were inciting those on the sidewalk, yelling "Let them in." As some of the gate-crashers went off for reinforcements, Matt used his radio to call for back up.

"I said, `We need some more people down here because there's going to be a friggin' riot.' No sooner did I get off the radio than there were 15 more people coming around the corner. There were probably 30 or 40 people screaming at us, yelling `Why won't you let us in?'"

According to Wood, the paying concert-goer, "A short time later was when the [uniformed security guards] came over. A little bit after that everybody who was on the sidewalk, maybe 30 people, ran for the door en masse. The only one they caught was the little black guy who had been so loud and obnoxious. I didn't see that clearly because I had to grab a tree because I was afraid of getting run over."

It wasn't hard to find people on the Arcata Plaza who knew Anestor and had witnessed the incident. A blond woman who called herself Vampress said she was part of the crowd that rushed in. "I was sitting in this circle and I heard people say, `Free show,' so I went over there," she said. "James was in the middle of it all. He was the only one that got caught 'cause he bumped into two cops." Since she snuck into the concert, Vampress did not see what happened next.

According to Matt, "At some point somebody screamed, `Rush `em!' and all of a sudden 40 people were rushing six security guards. Three people hit me and got by me. I couldn't grab them. Then this black gentleman came running straight at me swinging his fists. He punched me once in the face, twice in the neck, once in the ribs. [I later learned] he cracked one of my ribs.

"I started wrestling with him, took him to the ground with a headlock. We fought for quite a while. All I was trying to do was cuff him, because I wanted him under [citizen's] arrest. All of a sudden the people from the smoking section and the people who rushed the gate started throwing plastic water bottles and picking up orange (highway) cones and throwing them at people. I was on the ground rolling around with this guy, getting kicked, hit, everything."

"They had him [Anestor] on the ground completely constrained and the woman [security guard] tased him," Wood contended. "She had a little handheld thing with electrodes, a blue flicker would go across. I'm assuming it was a taser. I was yelling, `This isn't right.' Other people were yelling `Stop zapping him. Leave him alone.' That's when she started pointing the taser at people, zapping it non-stop, pretty much accosting the crowd. They were trying to shoo everybody away. At that point I was really upset and shaking so my boyfriend talked me into going back inside."

According to Matt, the weapon was not a taser, it was a stun gun, and the guard never used it on Anestor.

"The only reason a stun gun was brought out [was that the security guard] saw me on the ground getting the crap beat out of me," he said. "She pulled her stun gun out and started clicking it at people. She never touched one person with it. She was backing the crowd away from me so I wouldn't get hit."

According to Vampress, the word on the Plaza was that, "They tasered him [James], then they handcuffed him. I think they pepper-sprayed him while he was handcuffed, then tasered him some more, like eight or nine times."

Matt said Anestor was putting up such a fight that he had no choice but to use pepper-spray. "I had him in [a hold] and I was still getting hit and kicked, so I resorted to the pepper spray. That was my last resort other than punching the guy. I pepper-sprayed him and flipped him on his stomach and I handcuffed him. After I got him cuffed I rolled him over and grabbed a bottle of water to wash the pepper spray out of his eyes. I've been sprayed myself and I know how it feels."

Not long after that the Eureka police, the fire department and an ambulance showed up responding to a 911 call. As Anestor was taken away, Matt was heading inside to get cleaned up. He learned that one of the other guards had suffered a broken finger in the melee.

"I highly doubt that [these were] our usual String Cheese fans," said Jeremy Stein, manager of String Cheese Incident. "In most markets they would buy a ticket a couple of hours into their parking lot party and come in. In this case obviously that didn't happen. It reeks to me of someone who didn't get a ticket, heard there was a big party, who's completely trashed, and the whole thing spun out of control on his end."

Anestor was not arrested, according to a Police Department source, although Matt has reportedly filed an assault complaint against him. As for Anestor himself, the word on the Plaza over the weekend was that he had recovered from the whole thing, physically at least. "He can't remember anything about what happened," an acquaintance said.

Local religious leaders: Iraq war unjust


All over the country religious groups have come out against a preemptive strike in Iraq. Groups ranging from the American Catholic Bishops to the National Baptist Convention say such a war would be morally unjustifiable.

Locally, a group of religious leaders -- two Catholics, four Protestants, a Quaker and a Muslim -- gathered last week to express their views and to discuss the implications of a war in Iraq as seen from perspectives of each religious tradition.

The conversation ranged from what constitutes a "just war" to the geo-political consequences of invading Iraq, to end-times prophecies, to the overbearance of the military-industrial complex. They all agreed on one thing: There is no moral justification for attacking Iraq. Here are some of their comments, made during a 90-minute discussion held at the First Presbyterian Church in Eureka.

FRIAR JIM TRENT, a "distressed and depressed Catholic" from the Fortuna parish: "In our tradition war is justified, but [only] from a defensive position. We, as a national policy, have sought to dominate the world in many ways, culturally particularly. Where the Greeks imposed their culture with a golden idol, we put in the golden arches. [Do we] have a right to the world's oil? [If we win the war] we will have to police [Iraq] just like we did Germany and Japan [at the end of World War II]. While that happens [Iraq will] get looted by us, the conquerors. The oil pipes will go right through there. The question is: Who gains from this war? What gives us the right to say who should lead and who should not lead in what country? And if we say that can't [everyone else] say that about us? Isn't it setting up counter-chaos?"

REV. DAVID HOLMQUIST of the Calvary Lutheran Church in Eureka: "There is one most-powerful force in the world today and that is commercialism. [It is] more powerful than [the] military, more powerful than politics, more powerful than, I hate to say it, religion. I have to ask if the business interests as represented in the Bush administration, as well as Congress, are looking for profit. At the most benign, we're making the world safe for business, [and] I don't think my view is cynical at all. We're using violence as a first course, not a last course and it's not just."

REV. ROBERT TALMADGE, a liberal Catholic from St. Alban's in Eureka: "The only justification [for war] is if we have exhausted all non-violent means. Some of us see prophecies being fulfilled [in] an end-time conflagration in Israel."

ANDREA ARMIN-HOILAND, of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Arcata: "We really believe that violence is never an answer to a conflict. Our faith says war is a rejection of God's creation. [In this country] we believe that it's okay when good overcomes evil by violence. That's almost a religion; it's almost our faith now. We are talking in almost religious terms, good and evil, about how much we believe in militarism, as if there were no other options. We will be isolated [if we go to war in Iraq] because many other countries feel we have ulterior motives, meaning oil."

REV. BUD TILLINGHAST, a semi-retired United Methodist (Tillinghast helped organize the gathering): "Historically, the lack of force has been productive. The Soviet Union fell through non-violence. We're a nation that has been petrified by Sept. 11. We've stopped thinking; we're just feeling. People are not secure and they are looking for security in force and military might. [People have said a war in Iraq would be] a religious war and it [would]: the religion of love, compassion and justice against the religion of profit, the religion of power. That's where the struggle needs to be waged."

REV. JIM PRICE, of the First Presbyterian Church in Eureka: "I find it curious that we have a president who says `Jesus Christ is my number one political philosopher.' He didn't say John Locke or anybody like that, he said Christ. If that's true, if you read Christ's teachings, and the Sermon on the Mount especially, it seems to me it is very hard to justify any war at all, let alone a questionably unjust war. My hope is that George Bush is calling a Texas bluff and really trying to get some teeth into the arms inspections. The problem is that he probably won't get that and we'll be on an inexorable course to violent conflict. We could remove Saddam through conflict, and I suppose you could say if we were terribly oppressed [like the people of Iraq] we wouldn't mind people liberating us, but who's to say there aren't 10 more Saddams lining up behind him?"

ABDUL AZIZ, an economics professor at Humboldt State University and a local Muslim leader [Aziz is originally from Pakistan]: "I believe that sometimes there are wars you should fight. For example [if] you are fighting a defensive war, you are fighting a war in which you are being forced to change your religion, or you are defending a weaker nation against a more powerful aggressor. [But attacking Iraq] is not a defensive war. Christ advised turning the other cheek. Since Iraq has not even hit on one cheek, there is no religious justification for attacking Iraq. [Beyond that if we do attack] Iraq will be beaten in a week's time, two weeks' time, and there will be a lot of negative reaction in the Muslim world. It will give the whole Muslim world the idea that anybody can go in and beat them up. This will pull them into the baser element: Let's go kill ourselves and kill the other guy."

REV. DEAN LINDQUIST, a retired Lutheran minister and a marriage and family counselor: "We're the so-called liberal Christians in Eureka, but there is a bunch of right-wing Christians in this country that are pressing for war. What's the difference between a Muslim fundamentalist and a fundamentalist Christian? None. They are exactly the same."

The consensus at the end of the discussion was that, despite the conflicts that are ascribed to religion, what the world needs is more religion, not less. "We can defend ourselves better by being just than by military might," Aziz said. "Religion is the best protection because it tells us to be just to others. Unjust nations simply wither away."

Eureka mayor does have clout


With the Eureka mayoral election just days away, it turns out the office has more power than many of the candidates think.

In recent interviews, more than one candidate emphasized that the mayor's powers are confined to breaking a tie when the City Council deadlocks on an issue. No one mentioned another power: that the mayor can actually veto an ordinance.

After an ordinance is approved by the City Council, a mayor has 10 days to sign the ordinance into law; do nothing, in which case the ordinance automatically becomes law; or veto the ordinance by refusing to sign it and returning it back to the council with comments. Only a vote by four of the five councilmembers can override a mayor's veto.

The existence of this little-known -- and so far little-used -- power has some interesting implications, particularly with regard to looming issues like the big-box ordinance.

If the next council were to approve the controversial ordinance, which would restrict giant retailers, the next mayor could step in and veto it. It would then be up to the City Council to pull together four votes to override the veto and make the ordinance law.

During her 12 years as mayor, Nancy Flemming used the power of the veto once.

"As far as I know it was the first time" a Eureka mayor had vetoed an ordinance, she said.

In the mid-1990s, an ordinance was proposed by then-Councilmember Jean Warnes. The law would have prevented the city manager from giving any paperwork to the council less than 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Flemming said the council approved Warnes ordinance. Flemming did not sign the proposal and sent it back to the council with her comments.

"It was a silly thing," Flemming said of the proposed ordinance.

The council failed to muster enough votes to override Flemming's veto, so Warnes proposal failed to become law.

Payton denies abuse

Brian Payton, one of four candidates running for the Eureka City Council Ward 3, said the circumstances surrounding his arrest on Oct. 11 for domestic abuse were blown out of proportion and did not warrant serving a week in jail.

In an interview with the Journal, Payton said the arrest was politically motivated but he did not provide any evidence to back up that claim. He said he will not withdraw from the election.

"I'm asking the community to continue to support me," he said. "Don't believe everything you hear."

Payton had been held for seven days in the Humboldt County Jail on a $50,000 bond. On Oct. 18, the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and Payton was released on his own recognizance.

Tragedy strikes

Blue Lake City Clerk Karen Nessler was seriously injured and her husband, William, was killed Sunday when their 1938 Ford coupe ran off of southbound Highway 101 near Westhaven and struck a tree.

Nessler, 60, was taken to Mad River Community Hospital. Her husband, William, was 66.

Birds attacked

It's not just dogs anymore.

Five ducks were abducted and one goose was bludgeoned in Sequoia Park last week in the latest example of animal cruelty in Eureka.

In the spring, a young dog was found starving in a filthy cage and later died in a case that attracted media attention. It's owner eventually plead guilty to animal neglect. A few months later, dozens of dogs, cats and other animals were freed from miserable conditions at an animal shelter. The owners are facing charges.

In the latest instance, someone laid boards from the shore to the island in the middle of the Sequoia Duck Pond and then went across to attack the birds.

Eureka police have few leads, because the only witnesses are other birds. And they aren't talking.

"What do you investigate when some ducks were taken and a goose beaten up?" asked Susie Owsley, public information officer for the Eureka Police Department. "There really isn't much to on."

The reason the police are so sure that five ducks were taken is that a Humboldt State University student is doing a project on the duck population and provided an exact count. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

"Who knows what they could be doing with them," Owsley said. "It's kind of gross, actually."

As for the goose, it remains under the care of a local veteranarian.

Anyone with information on the incident should call Eureka Animal Control at 441-4327.


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