EUREKA POLICE CHIEF ARNIE MILLSAP HAS A LONG MEMORY.
He remembers 30 years ago when the Grateful
Dead, the most successful touring band in history, played in Eureka and
he was a young officer working crowd control. And he remembers last year
when private security hired for a Forest Aid concert at the Eureka Municipal
Auditorium was in his words "inadequate."
That's why he denied a permit to promoters of a Forest Aid concert featuring two former members of the Grateful Dead unless they promised to hire nine additional police officers.
The concert will be held instead at the Mateel Community Center in Redway tonight. Joining Mickey Hart's Planet Drum and Bob Weir and Friends for the Tree of Life concert are eco-groovy singer/songwriter Alice DiMicele and a band called KVHW led by Steve Kimock, who played guitar for the Dead reunion band the Other Ones.
Organized by Bill Graham Presents of San Francisco and People Productions in southern Humboldt, the event is in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the day Julia "Butterfly" Hill climbed a redwood tree on Pacific Lumber Co. land near Stafford to protest old-growth logging. She hasn't come down yet and the length of her protest is again drawing national media attention.
"This is the third year we've done a Forest Aid event," said Bob Barsotti, vice president of Bill Graham Presents.
"Each year it's been for a different aspect of the Headwaters struggle: First it was for the Trees Foundation and the Northcoast Environmental Center; the next year we did a show with Bonnie Raitt and the money was divided between four or five different groups. That was actually a tour where in four dates we made over $100,000.
"This year we were working on a number of ideas and they were all falling through. Then Julia called up Mickey Hart and said, `Hey, Mickey, I'm going to be up here for a year as of Dec. 10, how about doing a show?' He said, `Great idea!' So she actually was the impetus on this one."
Hart predicted that some people will complain that musicians have no business getting involved in politics. But, he said, "We're the artists, the poets, the ones who mirror what's going on in society. We have to make a stand.
"This is a precious forest," he said. "There is an ecosystem here just teeming with all kinds of life and it has its own rhythm. We're here to say to Charles Hurwitz and Maxxam that you cannot violate this rhythm. Corporations cannot take our greatest treasures from us. We're going to stop them; at least we will try. We're not going to let them rip this away from us without a fight."
The two previous forest shows were held at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium and the plan was for tonight's to be there as well.
"They have a policy where anything that goes into the Muni has to be approved by the police," Barsotti said. "The first time we did this two years ago, I got a call saying they did not want us to do it. I sat down with Chief Arnie Millsap and convinced him that I knew what I was doing, and we weren't going to let anything get out of hand. He was concerned that there would be protests outside, and I convinced him that it was a fund raiser, not a rally."
According to Barsotti, the last two shows went off without any problems. The main complaints came from neighbors who said concert-goers were relieving themselves in their backyards. So last year portable toilets were rented and more security was provided outside.
When he was turned down this year, Barsotti said, "I called the chief and asked why. He said, `We're really worried about this show. There's a lot of tension up here. We've got a situation here with a lot of people out of work and we're afraid of a violent situation. So we're going to require that you hire eight officers and a sergeant and it will cost you $3,000 or $4,000.'"
Millsap said the decision was solely based on the inadequacy of the security at last year's event.
"Politics don't enter into it," he said. "My job as chief of police is to keep the peace in the community and enforce the law. When we have groups that use city facilities and they don't provide crowd management, we're going to require additional resources be allocated to make sure that laws are obeyed and that there is no damage to property.
"No matter what's going on at the Muni we get complaints about traffic, parking, the noise. When large numbers of people crowd into that building and large numbers are outside milling about, it creates a disturbance factor."
Millsap is well aware that Grateful Dead shows are known to attract a crowd that enjoys hanging out many come to concerts without tickets for just that purpose.
"You want some history?" he asked. "Thirty years ago I went through the same darn thing with the Grateful Dead. Look back in the archives of the Eureka paper and you'll see there was a big bust at the Grateful Dead dance. I was an officer at the time."
The concert on Jan. 20, 1968, was billed as "the Quick and the Dead." It featured Quicksilver Messenger Service along with the Grateful Dead.
"We had people all over the outside and so many inside the fire marshal was getting the hiccups," the chief recalled. "We had people selling and using marijuana that night. I caught one guy selling LSD tabs. After that we wouldn't allow the Grateful Dead to come back to Eureka. But this has nothing to do with that incident. This is a different group, different times."
With both sides eager to avoid confrontation, Barsotti made plans to take the show elsewhere. He didn't have to look far. Community leaders in Southern Humboldt offered use of their facility even though the annual Winter Arts Fair takes place at the Mateel over the weekend. With just 700 tickets available in the smaller hall, the show sold out almost immediately. In retrospect, Barsotti said that the change in venue may be for the best.
"It turned this back into what it should be, which is a celebration of Julia's year up in the tree."
The move to the Mateel also opened up a unique opportunity. The show will be broadcast live on KMUD public radio and via the Internet through KMUD's website.
It's been a busy week for Hill with media interviews and visitors, many wondering when she will come down.
"My word from the very beginning was that I was not going to allow my feet to touch the ground again until I felt that I had done everything I possibly could. That still holds," said Hill via her cellular phone.
"I never set forth any specific conditions that had to happen before I came down. I talked about things I'd love to see happen. I came forward with terms for a resolution with Pacific Lumber, a comprehensive conservation easement where both sides could win, and I got attacked for making nonnegotiable demands from one side and attacked from the other side, saying I was negotiating with a company that can't keep its word."
Hill brushed aside rumors that she is suffering physically from her self-imposed confinement.
"I'm doing wonderfully as far as my health goes. That's not an issue. There's been all kinds of rumors. I'm not pregnant, I don't have six toes, I have never eaten corned beef at the Scotia Inn, I'm not marrying a Highway Patrol officer."
Comments? E-mail the Journal: firstname.lastname@example.org