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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense | Health, Housing, and Public Services
200+ Protest Road Widening Through Richardson Grove at CalTrans, 12 arrested
Over 200 gathered Monday at Eureka's CalTrans office to oppose the federally-funded road-widening plan through Richardson Grove State Park. The protest, organized by Richardson Grove Action Now, was lively and precedes an action camp beginning February 12th. At the mass rally on Monday, police used nunchakus on a demonstrator restrained by lockboxes on both arms and officers used stun guns on 3 individuals outside the building. 12 people were arrested and released that night and the next day.
Richardson Grove Action Now is opposed to the California Department of Transportation CalTrans project to expand Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park because the effects of big box corporations, be they Wal-Marts, private prisons, or military installations, destroy local economies and communities in their tracks. We know they will take away more jobs than they create and have other adverse affects on our lives. People come from all over the world to worship the ancient trees of Humboldt, which live longer and sequester more carbon than any other species on Earth. CalTrans is downplaying the environmental, social, economic, and spiritual impacts this federally-funded highway expansion project would bring to Humboldt County.
On Monday folks from all walks of life, from tribal elders to street musicians to students to lawyers, local business owners and bicyclists gathered outside the CalTrans District One Headquarters in Eureka, California. The peoples' demand was to cancel the plan to widen highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park. As the rally grouped up for a photo, 6 individuals entered the office and locked down to each other and to the middle staircase railing using metal sleeves.
4 main points:
-The ancient trees of Richardson Grove are invaluable and will never come back in our lifetime. They sequester carbon, create oxygen, and increase the quality of life for folks near and far.
-Widening the road will bring big box stores to compete with local businesses.
-This plan is part of a larger strategy to open up Humboldt County to larger trucks, to open up the region, both land and water, including Humboldt Bay and the Pacific coast, to increased militarization, and allow for greater access from the East and up and down the coast for military and corporate intrusion.
On Monday, there was a feeling of great exuberance in the crowd that gathered in the office. Prayers were offered, an arborist spoke about the conflicts and lack of scientific basis for CalTrans' Environmental Impact Report, poetry was read, and mandolin, guitar and horn toodled in a lively occupation of the CalTrans office front room. People sang songs and chanted, “One Demand: Cancel the Plan!” Spirits were high as 200+ people throughout the protest shared food, water, encouragement, and chocolate. Body workers offered massage to the folks who were locked down. At one point, the district manager emerged from the recesses of the building and attempted to steal the megaphone but was rebuffed by spirited chants of, “Get off our doorstep and we'll get off yours!”
Lockdowners created a strong rallying epicenter for about 5 hours. People stayed energized and focused on their demand for CalTrans to cancel the Richardson Grove project, inspired by the direct action and eventually observing and protesting outside the building until the last arrestees were taken to jail.
We can usually expect a certain lack of sophistication and a bias favoring the State in the coverage by mainstream media outlets, and the press from Monday's demonstration was no exception. The Eureka Times Standard reported “violence” by the protesters at the rally, parroting police sources. In reality, the protest was overwhelmingly peaceful. The police aggressively advanced on the crowd and applied nunchakus to the calf and ankle of a protester restrained by lock boxes on either arm. (See video: http://video.accesshumboldt.net/video/914/richardson-grove-protest-febru, seconds 6:35, 7:52, 8:08, 8:29, 8:59). Eureka Police and California Highway Patrol officers pushed people down stairs, shoved them out of the building with batons and stun guns, and pasted up tarps over the windows to obstruct the public's view of what the officers were doing to the lock-downers. An elderly woman who refused to leave was dragged away. An elder demonstrator was shoved by the officers down the stairs into the bodies of those below. The officers used stun guns and upholstered batons to intimidate people in the protest and sent electric shocks through at least three people who they were pushing through the crowd. The protester who received the mindless torture from the Eureka cop's use of nunchukas is still recovering from injuries.
This video shows the police using 'pain compliance' on a person who cannot move his arms, and later shows the officers discharging stun guns outside.
The violence used against peaceful demonstrators is one instance in a daily continuum of oppression faced by those the capitalist system, using police, wishes to control. Widening the highway through Richardson Grove would only further the militarization of our county by providing the infrastructure for military and police vehicles to stage convoys as well as increasing the capital they are sworn to protect under penalty of death.
The people of Humboldt County are committed to ending this project. Our determination to protect the Redwood Curtain is not shaken by the violence committed by the State or the distortions of the media. We are peaceful as well as tenacious; we will not stop until this wasteful, destructive plan is placed in the dustbin of history. When we see the ancient trees in our state parks permanently protected, we can take another step down the path towards creating resilient, self-reliant communities that stand a chance at surviving a rapidly shifting and increasingly tumultuous world.
See Statement from Lock-Downers at Monday's Direct Action at CalTrans: http://saverichardsongrove.blogspot.com/2011/02/statement-from-lock-downers-at-mondays.html