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The National Marine Fisheries Service has released new data showing that the California-based drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish killed an estimated 53 marine mammals from May 2013 through January 2014. Fishery observers monitored 34 percent of the drift gillnet sets made last year; they documented that the fishery killed an estimated three California gray whales, six short-finned pilot whales, nine northern right whale dolphins, nine California sea lions and 26 short-beaked common dolphins.
In response to the decision from Sonoma County district attorney Jill Ravitch's decision
not to prosecute Erick Gelhaus, the Sheriff's Deputy that killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez, protesters assembled in Santa Rosa on July 12 and marched through the downtown streets. The group stopped in intersections to trace themselves in chalk as a reminder that an innocent boy was killed. After the official march was declared to be over, many continued to march in an act of civil disobedience towards Highway 101, where they blocked an off-ramp and all three northbound lanes of traffic, causing a response from riot police.
Shooter of Andy Lopez Not Being Prosecuted |
See Also: Public Letter to DA Ravitch
On June 30, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for review filed by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a private business that has been operating in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The company sued the Interior Department in December of 2012 after former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to let their 40-year lease to expire on its own terms. This decision affirms the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal's denial of the Company's preliminary injunction lawsuit. Environmental groups now hope the Department of the Interior will set in motion a timeline for the company to remove its oyster operation from Drakes Estero.
“The Court made the right decision in upholding the long-anticipated oyster lease expiration that protects Drakes Estero, the wild ecological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore, which is particularly important on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “We look forward to a time of healing in the community and stand ready to do our part to support the workers’ transition.”
The company has been operating for 19 months past its lease expiration under the soon-to-be-lifted court injunction. The company's workers living on-site will be allowed to remain in the housing for the foreseeable future until equivalent housing can be located, and they will receive a generous relocation package allowed under federal relocation assistance laws.
Read More | Save the Point Reyes Wilderness
Previous Related Indybay Feature: Drakes Bay Oyster Company Seeks to Privatize Point Reyes National Seashore
An energetic life celebration and march through Santa Rosa was held on June 7 for Andy Lopez, who would have celebrated his 14th birthday earlier in the week if he had not been shot and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22. Young people were abundant at the birthday celebration. Some who appeared to be not much more than elementary school age could be seen helping organize the proceedings, with many guardians simply watching and playing more of a background role.
Andy's family and friends were joined by a wide range of local and statewide supporters. Their core support comes from the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez and Andy's Youth. Andy's Youth is a grassroots community group comprised of young people from Santa Rosa and Sonoma County who have played a central role in organizing demonstrations. In the days after Andy's killing, the news swept across the schools, and justice for him became a crucial issue to the area's youth. "I want to thank you guys for setting the example for everyone else," a member of the Brown Berets said to Andy's Youth at a rally at Old Court House Square held at the end of the March.
During the march, one demonstrator carried a mannequin that displayed precisely where bullets entered Andy's body. Very little information about Andy's killing has been released by the authorities in Sonoma County, and the community continues to wait for District Attorney Jill Ravitch to announce whether there will be charges filed against Gelhaus. From an independent autopsy report, the family was able to find out how many times Andy was shot, and where the bullets entered his body. They entered Andy's body in the following locations: his chest, his left arm, his left wrist, his right wrist, his right buttock, his right lateral buttock, and his lower back.
Read More with Photos | Andy Lopez - Reflections on his 14th Birthday - a Birthday Deprived | Independent Autopsy of Andy Lopez's Body Reveals Instant Execution | Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez
Previous Coverage: Andy’s Youth Suspended from School Over Six-Month Anniversary Protest
| Community Demands "Jailhouse for Gelhaus"
On the morning of April 22, dozens of Andy’s Youth gathered in front of Cook Middle School in Santa Rosa to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the murder of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus. The students held up signs in front of the school demanding that DA Ravitch immediately indict Deputy Gelhaus and that the Cook Principal and teachers cease making demeaning and disparaging comments about Andy – such as blaming Andy for his own death by not following “instructions”.
In response, the Cook principal and teachers grabbed the student protesters' signs and locked the school gate prohibiting the students from entering the school premises. Unable to enter their classrooms, the group of protesters marched to nearby Elsie HS to call on the Elsie students to join them. After marching past the police into the school building, demonstrators marched through the halls calling on their fellow students to walkout.
When the suspended students returned to Cook for another protest the next morning, they were allowed back into the school and the principal denied that she locked them out the previous day, despite eyewitness accounts to the opposite.
In March, Turtle Island Restoration Network ‘s Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) won a legal battle with the County of Marin to protect the last population of wild California coho coastal salmon. A California appeals court affirmed SPAWN's position that the Marin county-wide plan was unlawful because the county failed to analyze cumulative impacts and provided spurious mitigation for destruction of salmon habitat.
The California Court of Appeals found that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) completed by the County as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) failed to do sound environmental analysis and failed to properly mitigate the impacts of future development. It directed the lower court to ensure that the County complete a proper and legal environmental analysis, including a cumulative impact analysis, in order to enact its 2007 Countywide General Plan. The case will now move back to the lower court with a clear mandate from the CA Appeals Court to adequately protect California’s endangered coho salmon.
“It's a damn shame that the Marin Supervisors have wasted hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars and years of inaction defending an indefensible and environmentally harmful position instead of working with SPAWN to take common-sense actions to save these endangered fish for the public good,” said Todd Steiner, wildlife biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network’s SPAWN program.
Read More | Turtle Island Restoration Network | See Also: Marin County’s Golden Opportunity to Protect Region’s Endangered Coho Salmon
| Salmon Protection Advocates File Lawsuit Against Flawed Marin County Streamside Ordinance
A nine week official mourning for 13-year-old Andy Lopez has begun in the Moorland Area of Santa Rosa where Andy was shot seven times and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff Deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22, 2013. Traditionally, a Novenario is nine days of prayer after a death. Attributed to the Catholic religion, these prayers assist the deceased in getting to Heaven, and it is the family’s way of getting some form of closure and peace over their loss.
The Novenario is being organized by the group “Andy’s Youth”, which is part of the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez that formed shortly after Andy’s death. “Although we are deviating from custom, in the sense that instead of nine days we are making it nine weeks, I feel that what we are doing will be an inclusive approach,” said organizer Ramon Cairo. “We needed to find a thread that would allow us to address the subject of Andy’s death and what the Latino community of Santa Rosa needs to empower the community, while at the same time teaching viable ways to seek remediation and an address of grievances”.
The nine week Novenario will continue through April 22, which will be the 6th month since Andy’s death. The last day of prayer will be at the Memorial Site at Andy Lopez Memorial Park, which is located at the corner of W. Robles and Moorland Avenue in Santa Rosa.
Read More | Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez | See Also: Andy Lopez Memorial Rebuilt
| Rosario for Andy Lopez
Previous Coverage: Community Demands "Jailhouse for Gelhaus"
In a victory for ocean wildlife, federal fishery managers in Sacramento on March 13 decided not to expand driftnet fishing into protected sea turtle habitat along the California coast because it would significantly raise the risk of capture and drowning of endangered whales, sea turtles and dolphins. But the Pacific Fishery Management Council failed to take direct action to remove driftnets from the California coast, though the gear is banned in Oregon and Washington.
On March 1, urban farmers demonstrated at Sprouts grocery chain locations in Petaluma, Fremont, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View. The farmers oppose plans to develop the Gill Tract. Boycott Sprouts is asking shoppers to patronize other stores until Sprouts backs away from the development deal. On March 5, the Albany City Council approved paving six acres of the Gill Tract. In response to the council's vote, Occupy the Farm has called for a rally on March 12
The Cotati-based national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announced the settlement of a false-advertising lawsuit against defendant Steven Mahrt, doing business as Petaluma Farms and owner of Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs (“Judy’s Eggs”). The lawsuit alleges that imagery and statements used on Judy’s Eggs packaging led consumers to mistakenly believe the eggs came from hens with significant outdoor access. The lawsuit also alleges that consumers bought Judy’s Eggs because of these representations.
As a result of the settlement, and without admitting wrongdoing, Petaluma Farms has: (1) agreed to modify the packaging by removing the illustration of hens on a green field, and removing the language that Plaintiff alleged could lead consumers to mistakenly believe the eggs come from hens with significant outdoor access; (2) obtained Certified Humane certification (which includes a minimum animal welfare requirements) without changes to its facilities; and (3) agreed to donate $14,666.67 to Sonoma Humane Society for hen rescue efforts, $14,666.67 to the Public Justice Foundation to provide assistance to the victims of consumer fraud and false advertising, and $14,666.66 to Consumer Action to provide assistance to the victims of consumer fraud and false advertising.
After several months of litigation and extensive negotiations, the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit on an individual basis rather than as a class action. Petaluma Farms will also provide $1,000 compensation to Plaintiff Glover in lieu of any recovery to which she would have been entitled had she prevailed in this action through class-certification and trial, and pay some of the attorney fees Plaintiff’s counsel incurred to prosecute this lawsuit.
Read More | Animal Legal Defense Fund