California law enforcement came down hard on environmentalists in Humboldt County last November. Officers applied pepper spray directly to the eyes of protestors staging sit-ins at a lumber company and a Congressmember’s office. Perhaps you remember the pictures on TV — environmentalists screamed with pain as officers used cotton swabs to daub acid tear gas on their eyeballs. They say the authority’s actions amounted to torture. For the last three weeks, their case against local police and sheriffs charging as much has been being heard in federal court in San Francisco. What’s at stake, they say, is the use of pepper spray in any non-violent situation. Yesterday, Judge Vaughn R. Walker who’d been overseeing the case declared a mistrial after the jury deadlocked.
- Macon Cowles, lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs.