Saturday, April 19, 2008

Redwood ACLU Expresses Concern Over Planned Police Tactics At Redwood Park “4/20 Protest”

Saturday, April 19, 2008


For Immediate Release

Redwood ACLU Expresses Concern Over Planned Police Tactics At Redwood Park “4/20 Protest”

At the regular monthly meeting of the Redwood Chapter, ACLU Board of Directors on Tuesday, local civil rights leaders expressed concern over proposed police tactics to be used against nonviolent demonstrators at the annual “4/20 protest” at Redwood Park in Arcata this Sunday.

In particular, Boardmembers were alarmed by media reports quoting Arcata Police Department captain Tom Chapman, who allegedly is planning vehicle barricades around Redwood Park to block access to the public on April 20, even though no permits have been filed to require such an action.

“No one is contesting the reasonable enforcement of parking restrictions, much less preventing drivers from operating vehicles while they’re under the influence,” said Redwood ACLU chair Christina Allbright. “But the planned presence of barricades, command posts and a massive influx of out-of-town law enforcement officers begs the question of what is an appropriate level of response to an essentially nonviolent demonstration.”

This latest escalation of police tactics comes on the heels of the recent filing of the Arcata Police Review Act of 2008 by Redwood ACLU vice chair and Arcata attorney Greg Allen, which would establish an independent civilian-run police review commission for the APD. The official Title and Summary is due back from Arcata’s City Attorney this week, to be followed by signature-gathering efforts aimed at putting the measure on the ballot for Arcata voters in November.

“These recent statements constitute a pre-emptive declaration of war by the APD against peaceful protesters who want to see changes in how our society treats the use of cannabis,” Allen said. “Especially considering the City’s plans to increase sales taxes, how is the cost of this over-reaction justified in terms of benefit to public safety?”

In addition to asking for the presence of Independent Observers at the protest, the Redwood ACLU also voted unanimously to direct one of its Boardmembers, local attorney Peter Martin, to submit a Public Records Act request to the City of Arcata to discover how much the law enforcement actions associated with the “4/20 protest” would cost, including all overtime paid out to APD personnel and any outside police agencies. Boardmembers also wanted to know why restroom facility access was “cordoned off,” as stated in recent media reports.

“This could be a case of entrapment, when you deny access to restroom facilities, and then threaten people with arrest when nature calls,” said Redwood ACLU boardmember Minerva Williams.

For more information, call the new ACLU Hotline at 707-442-4419.

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