Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Video of the Richardson Grove Protest

Posted By on Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 2:01 PM

UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: Lt. Murl Harpham of the Eureka Police Department responds to the "moments that deserve further explanation." Plus, an apology from this reporter after the break.

Access Humboldt today posted this video, which shows footage from the rally that took place Monday outside the Eureka offices of Caltrans in protest of the planned road-widening project through Richardson Grove. According to the credits, the video was produced independently from the new activist coalition Redwood Grove Action Now! 

At least one anonymous commenter has claimed that police officers used Tasers during the event. Unfortunately, this 14-minute video does not provide conclusive evidence one way or the other, owing to the limited perspective, chaotic camerawork and the inexplicable dopey music bed that has been laid beneath the video.

There are, however, a few moments that deserve further explanation:

  • At 4:58 a protester being lifted by two officers, one holding each arm, suddenly goes limp.

  • At around 8:05 a protester who's draped over a railing, surrounded by officers, seems to flinch. This is followed by a man's shouts, and the shouts sound pained, though their source is indeterminate and the generalized yelling soon escalates, further confusing matters.

  • 8:35 -- A woman starts screaming at the police officers. Much of it is indecipherable, though one line is clear: "Get that fuckin' shit off his ankle right now!"

  • 9:00 -- Protesters start chanting, "Shame!"

  • At about the 10-minute mark, officers start herding protesters away from the building, and at 10:15 you can see an officer holding what appears to be a Taser in his left hand. The moment is preceded by a few loud shouts/screams.

  • Shortly past the 11-minute mark, protesters, who have been locked out of the building, start pounding on the glass doors as officers inside drape yellow plastic over the glass, evidently to obscure the view. (Between 11:50 and 12:05, protesters can be heard encouraging a fellow activist to desist with the door-banging. "Stop! Nonviolent! Nonviolent!")

Take a look for yourself and see if you spot anything else of note. 

UPDATE: In a phone conversation this afternoon, Lt. Murl Harpham of the Eureka Police Department responded to questions raised by the video.

Addressing the protester who goes limp, Harpham said, "That's something they do -- go limp so they have to be carried. That's very typical. Some of 'em, a lot of times, are on drugs so they don't feel much pain when you try to do pain compliance."

Though he was present throughout the rally, Harpham did not see the moment at 8:05 when a protester seems to flinch (and he couldn't get the video to work on his computer) so he could not respond specifically. Regarding the screaming he said simply, "There was a lot of screaming going on."

Regarding the woman screaming about "his ankle" Harpham explained that officers were applying nunchucks to a protester's ankle to stop him from kicking them. [And here I need to apologize to an anonymous commenter: In the story about the rally that appears in this week's print edition of the Journal I expressed skepticism about the claim of nunchuck usage. Shows what I know.]

Harpham said the man was repeatedly kicking officers. "I was one of the ones he kicked," he said. He explained that the nunchuck technique works as follows: "Wrap 'em around like a handcuff, then squeeze, which causes pain. ... . That's the way you get 'em to quit kickin' ya. And there's nothin' damaging."

Harpham acknowledged that it's possible one of his fellow officers unsheathed his Taser but that he's positive none was actually used. The devices are programmed, he explained, to report when they were last used and for how long, and none of their Tasers were activated Monday.

Regarding the plastic that was draped over the windows Harpham said that it's a technique commonly used in law enforcement to reduce screaming and yelling. Asked about people's right to see what was happening he said no such right exists. Once the protesters are deemed to be tresspassing (among other potential crimes), it becomes a crime scene and officers can order everyone, media included, to leave the scene, Harpham said.

In closing, Harpham said that two women protesters approached an EPD sergeant as the events of the day were calming down and told him they didn't want the demonstration to turn out the way it did, that it had been taken over by members of Redwood Curtain CopWatch.

Oh, and he called back while I was writing this post to respond to Jeff Muskrat's comment below: "The only sparks flying was when the grinder ground the arm bars [inside the lobby]." And he added that the EPD has two videos showing a protester hurling a full coffee cup at officers. We'll post that as well when and if it's made available.

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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