News Briefs: Chief Clears Taser Cops Before IA Investigation | ACLU Seeks Taser Limits | Olympic Trials (In)Security | Fund Supports Attack Victim | Proposals for the Pit | Eugene Soldier Faces Prison | Ecosaboteur to ‘Terrorist’ Prison? | Free Lunch! | EW Good at Penetration | Activist Alert | War Dead |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Eugene’s Dream for Darfur
Local effort for international impact during Trials
Happening People: Stacey Jones and Kylie McGill
Chief Clears Taser Cops Before IA Investigation
The criminal and administrative investigations into what happened when a anti-pesticide protester was tasered May 30 are nowhere near complete. But that didn’t stop Eugene Police Chief Robert Lehner from apparently exonerating the officers even before his Internal Affairs (IA) investigators had interviewed civilian witnesses, a dozen of whom have alleged unjustified police brutality and arrests.
Lehner sent an email to the mayor and City Council June 2 proclaiming that Taser victim Ian Van Ornum “refused” officer orders to get out of the street and “immediately began resisting arrest and fighting.” Van Ornum “successfully fought free from the arresting officer at a point when he had only one handcuff on, swinging the other cuff wildly,” Lehner claimed. “Recognizing the dangerous situation,” an officer warned Van Ornum to stop or be Tased. Lehner alleged, “Van Ornum did not stop and was taken into custody with the aid of a Taser.”
Lehner’s account largely repeats a May 30 press release from EPD but adds additional details and new charges against protesters. Lehner alleges that while officers were arresting Van Ornum, there were “two additional persons who began physically attacking the officers.”
The press release states that protester “David Alexander Owen, ran at the officers in an attempt to interfere with the arrest, while another, Anthony Jameson Farley, swung his fists at the officers.” The press release states that Farley was charged with assault.
Owen was charged with interfering with police, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but there’s no mention in the press release of him allegedly “physically attacking” officers, as Lehner alleged in his email.
In an email to the mayor and council, Owen said that Lehner’s charge that he was “physically attacking” officers “is a complete fabrication.” Noting the press release reported in the media, Owen wrote, “I doubt that any policeman is claiming that I attacked them, only that I ran toward their general area.”
Owen said that what really happened was that he “stood 10 feet from the police and, witnessing their excessive force … asked in civil manner ‘Why are you hurting him so much?’” After the question, an “aggressive” officer “charged toward me, pulled my arm behind my back and then slammed me to the ground where I hit my head and was knocked unconscious,” Owen alleged.
Numerous other witnesses at the event have alleged that Van Ornum was not resisting arrest or blocking traffic and was Tasered and assaulted by police while already subdued without justification.
Police initially had said they expected their IA investigation to be completed by the end of August with a recommendation sent to Lehner.
Under the new process set up by a recent ballot measure, the independent police auditor could make a recommendation on that recommendation. Lehner would then make a final determination on any misconduct or discipline, although his June 2 email appears to indicate he’s already made up his mind. After Lehner announces his final adjudication, the Civilian Review Board could comment on the case and investigation, but that won’t change the outcome.
But the whole investigation appears likely to be delayed by District Attorney Doug Harcleroad’s announcement June 16 that he’s investigating the May 30 incident.
The Register-Guard reported that Harcleroad is investigating the protesters for criminal charges but not the police.
But Lehner emailed the mayor and council June 16 stating that Harcleroad “intends to review the entire matter for potential criminal prosecution” apparently including “the excessive force claims against the police.” Lehner said the department’s policy is to delay any administrative investigation of officer misconduct until after criminal cases against involved officers and/or civilians are completed.
In past cases, that has delayed IA investigations by months. — Alan Pittman
ACLU SEEKS TASER LIMITS
A new letter to EW from the Oregon ACLU this week calls for strict limits on the use of electronic Taser weapons by the Eugene Police Department. The statement reconfirms an earlier position by the ACLU that “Tasers be used only in those situations that are most likely to otherwise lead to the use of deadly force.”
The letter from David Fidanque and Claire Syrett of ACLU refers to the recent use of Tasers by the EPD on Ian Van Ornum during a peaceful political demonstration May 30.
“We wish to dispel any misperception that ACLU endorsed the current EPD Taser policy,” reads the letter. “To the contrary, we offered strong criticism of those parts of the policy that permit the use of Tasers to gain compliance in the course of taking a person into custody.”
The ACLU notes that the use of Tasers has been implicated in more than 250 unintended deaths nationwide, and “While the Police Commission and Chief Lehner adopted some of the ACLU’s recommendations last fall, the current policy allows the use of Tasers in situations where there is no threat to public safety and little threat to police officers.” See the entire letter at www.eugeneweekly.com
OLYMPIC TRIALS (IN)SECURITY?
With seats for 15,000 spectators at Hayward Field and another 10,000 people expected to show up for the Eugene ’08 Festival outside the Trials, people are starting to wonder how everyone is going to get in without waiting in lines for hours.
According to the event’s media relations liaison, Rita Radostitz, there will be three entrances total for the combined events. Each entrance will have from six to eight metal detectors. “If there is a bigger crowd, more can be added,” Radostitz said. But she added, “Really, we don’t expect there will be long lines.” The almost 1,000 athletes and another 1,000 or so members of the press will arrive through a separate entrance.
Capt. Chuck Tilby of the Eugene Police Department is chair of the security committee. He said he was unable to discuss many of the security measures that will be taken by the combined efforts of the local, state and federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and “most of the three-letter government agencies.”
Members of EPD will be working overtime at the event, and Securitas Security Services USA, which calls itself “the largest security provider in the world,” has been running ads in the R-G advertising that it “is currently hiring corporate security officers for the Olympic Trials in Eugene.” Neither Tilby nor Radostitz were aware of the Securitas hires. Securitas had not returned EW’s call to its offices by press time.
Tilby said the most noticeable aspect of the security measures at the Trials will be the metal detectors. Such measures “always slow things down a little,” but “it’s one of our goals to not have people standing in long lines,” he said. He said he plans for the lines to be “better than you see at the airport.”
Tilby and Radostitz both emphasize that they hope people will be aware of what they can or cannot bring to the Olympic Trials. The only items that will be allowed in are: clothes, cameras without large telephoto lenses, cushions without backs, empty water bottles and plastic tubes containing sunscreen, ointment, etc., as well as a small soft-sided bag. Spectators can fill their empty water bottles at one of five locations inside the venue. — Camilla Mortensen
FUND SUPPORTS ATTACK VICTIM
Residents of the Trainsong Neighborhood have set up a support fund for their neighbor who was brutally attacked early Monday, June 9. Contributions can be made to: Our Neighbors Support Fund, SELCO Community Credit Union, P.O. Box 7487, Eugene 97401, or any SELCO branch.
About two dozen community members from throughout Eugene, working with the Stop Hate Campaign, distributed 350 leaflets in the Trainsong Neighborhood June 13. The leaflets provided information about the attack and contact information for the Stop Hate Campaign, the Eugene Human Rights Commission and local law enforcement. Two men have been arrested in an investigation of the incident, but it has not been determined whether the beating of the black man was racially motivated.
“The purpose of the leafletting was to let Trainsong neighbors know that the broader community stands with them and to send the message that we won’t allow hate to take over our town,” says Michael Carrigan of Community Alliance of Lane County.
PROPOSALS FOR THE PIT
|The proposal from Opus NWR development|
The “Sears pit” and parking lot across from the downtown Eugene Public Library are the subject of a late-afternoon public meeting of the Eugene Redevelopment Advisory Committee this week. The gathering will review five city request for proposals (RFPs) responses from 4:30 to 7 pm Thursday, June 19, at the Sloat Room in the Atrium Building downtown. The City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Agency Board, plans to consider the proposals at a work session July 16.
Proposals for the 10th and Charnelton site, owned by the city, can be found on the city’s website, www.eugene-or.gov/downtown or at the Atrium Building. They include The Canterbury Group’s plan for a hotel with about 110 units and an investment of about $11.5 million; an Energy Village collaborative venture for multiple non-profit organizations; Opus Northwest apartments for about 472 college students with a small retail space and an investment of about $40 million; WG Development’s plans for 83 residential units above offices with a public plaza and a small retail space, an investment of approximately $28 million; and Jim Wilcox’s housing transit center, providing space for electric vehicle parking and charging.
Members of the West Broadway Advisory Committee who came together last year to look at redevelopment projects downtown are invited to the session.
EUGENE SOLDIER FACES PRISON
|James Burmeister would rather hold a guitar than a gun.|
PFC James Burmeister, the Eugene soldier who went AWOL rather than return to Iraq, was told by the U.S. Army that he faces a special court martial that could result in a bad conduct discharge and a sentence of up to a year in a military prison.
Injured by a roadside bomb in Baghdad and troubled by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving as a gunner on a Humvee that participated in bait-and-kill teams, Burmeister went AWOL and fled to Canada in May 2007 (see cover story 5/22). Burmeister has been waiting to find out what will happen to him since turning himself in to the Army at Fort Knox in March 2008.
Soldiers given bad conduct discharges usually lose all veterans’ benefits, including medical benefits. In addition to his PTSD, Burmeister wrote in a letter to Rep. Peter DeFazio that he suffers from seizures, nosebleeds and other symptoms related to his battle injury. The letter resulted in a congressional inquiry into the case.
Burmeister’s family still holds out hope that he could be discharged in lieu of a court martial. They are asking supporters to contact the Army on his behalf (U.S. Army — Public Affairs Office P.O. Box 995, Fort Knox, KY 40121), contact DeFazio and ask the status of the congressional inquiry, and send cards and messages of support directly to PFC James Burmeister (HHC, Building 298, Gold Vault Road, Fort Knox, KY 40121). — Camilla Mortensen
ECOSABOTEUR TO ‘TERRORIST’ PRISON?
Supporters of ecosaboteur Daniel McGowan fear he is to be transferred to a special prison unit for “terrorists” known as a Communications Management Unit (CMU).
In June 2007, McGowan was sentenced to seven years in prison for participation in two ecologically motivated arsons in the Northwest. Investigators called their hunt for the arsonists “Operation Backfire.” McGowan was given the “terrorism enhancement” for one of the fires.
For the past year McGowan has been serving his sentence at a low security prison in Minnesota — Federal Correctional Institution-Sandstone — and working on a master’s degree in environmental sociology from Antioch University, but on April 14 he was moved to another prison, and he has been in transit ever since.
Moving a federal prisoner for weeks at a time is known as “diesel therapy,” and it is seen as a form of punishment because of the discomfort from the uncomfortable shackles on hands and feet worn in transit as well as the inability to maintain contact with family and friends while being moved from prison to prison. McGowan has been kept in segregated housing units (“the hole”) during his move, according to his support network, and only spoken to his wife once.
Lauren Regan, of Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center, says McGowan was told by the guards transporting him that he was being moved to a CMU. According to McGowan’s wife, Jenny Synan, McGowan’s file says he is being moved to a CMU at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill. USP Marion used to be a “supermax” prison, but has been changed over to medium security.
McGowan has also been notified that he has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Wisconsin. As part of McGowan’s plea agreement with the government, he was not required to give names in statements to federal investigators. The government has been investigating ecologically motivated arsons in the Midwest.
“This action can only be viewed as punitive,” says Regan of the month and a half McGowan has spent on the road. “They cannot possibly believe that after taking an additional 18 months of prison time in exchange for noncooperation with the feds in his criminal case, that he would voluntarily comply with a grand jury.”
CMUs are not officially listed on the Bureau of Prisons website, but the Washington Post broke the story of the CMU at Terre Haute last year, calling it a, “a less restrictive version of the ‘supermax’ facility.” It mainly houses Muslim “terrorists,” and the facility has been accused of racial profiling. All communications from inmates are strictly monitored. Phone calls and visits are restricted to less than four hours a month, and some prisoners can be restricted to one three minute phone call a month. — Camilla Mortensen
A free lunch program for kids ages 1-18 is back this summer and will be operating from June 23 to Aug. 23 at more than 60 locations around Lane County.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded lunch program for children served from 11 am to 1 pm weekdays at various schools, churches, parks and community centers. For information on site locations, call FOOD for Lane County at 343-2822.
The program targets youngsters who qualify for free school lunches during the school year, but any child can participate in the summer, regardless of family income.
EW GOOD AT PENETRATION
A new report by the independent Media Audit shows a steady growth in readership of alternative newsweeklies such as Eugene Weekly. And EW is ranked sixth highest in the nation out of 117 alternative papers in readership penetration.
EW has a reach of 29.7 percent of all adults in Lane County. The paper with the highest penetration is The Isthmus in Madison, Wis.
Media Audit reports that 43.8 million adults in the U.S. have read an alternative newspaper or visited an alternative paper website in the past 30 days, up 3 percent over last year. Mainstream daily newspapers nationwide are seeing a drop in readership of about 3 percent over last year.
• New Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz is planning his final two “listening forums” this week and next. He will be available at 7 pm Thursday, June 19, at Sheldon Community Center and at 7 pm Wednesday, June 25, at Amazon Community Center. The sessions provide opportunities for him to meet with residents and better understand their priorities, concerns and visions for the community, and to talk about how to improve city services. For more information, call 682-5587, or email Jan.L.Bohman@ci.eugene.or.us
• The free monthly Brewhaha political forum sponsored by the Bus Project and EW is coming up at 7 pm Thursday, June 26, at Davis’ Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway, downtown. Topic is “Safety in the City,” looking at public safety issues in Eugene. Speakers TBA will address perspectives from youth, community and the Eugene Police Department.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,100 U.S. troops killed* (4,094)
• 29,978 U.S. troops injured* (29,978)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 313 coalition troops killed** (312)
• 1,123 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 92,077 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (92,004)
• $528.8 billion cost of war ($526.8 billion)
• $150.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($149.8 million)
* through June 16, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million.
We haven’t printed any substantive typos or other blunders for a while now, so we’re just using this pace to congradulate ourselves.
• It makes sense for the Eugene police auditor’s Citizen Review Board to weigh in on complaints of police brutality in the Taser incident downtown May 30, but we’re concerned about the decision by District Attorney Doug Harcleroad to investigate the case. We hope it’s a serious, even-handed investigation, and it’s not retaliation against the protesters or an effort to preempt criminal charges against the EPD officers involved. We’re skeptical because the DA is hardly an objective third party in this case. The police and DA’s office work closely together, and the DA has a history of rushing to justify questionable police actions, even the killing of unarmed suspects.
• The Moving Forward Together conference on “smart growth” took place June 11, and urban planning consultant John Fregonese’s talk was of particular interest to us. Since his days as Ashland’s city planner, Fregonese has been a strong, clear voice for sanity in urban planning nationwide, and we liked what he had to say about how cities can take control and shape their built environments for livability, efficiency and aesthetics. Is Eugene in control of its built environment? We remember the chaos and frustration of Eugene’s Land Use Code Update a few years ago. Most of the best and brightest reforms in LUCU got watered down by a weak Council under Mayor Torrey’s leadership, pressure from developer interests, and a city planning staff resistant to change. What did we end up with? More big box stores on the outskirts, more movement toward expanding our urban growth boundary, more development of resource lands, less affordable housing, more car-oriented housing development, a struggling downtown, not even a meaningful solar access code — in short, more “stupid growth.” It’s not been all bad, of course, but clues to our lack of progress include vacant buildings downtown, cutbacks in LTD bus routes and fewer people biking to work than 20 years ago.
So where do we go from here? The conference did shed light on the link between our environment and our economy and pointed us in the right direction. But overcoming inertia requires action and tough decisions. So-called “Green” Eugene is actually many years behind Portland, Corvallis, Ashland and many other cities in progressive planning. Let’s take these good concepts from the conference and put them to work. Nothing less than the future vitality of our city is at stake.
• The West Eugene Collaborative (WEC) has held eight general meetings and many committee meetings over the past year and still has a ways to go before making any recommendations on dealing with the immense complexities of west Eugene transportation. The large group representing government agencies, environmentalists, businesses, neighborhoods and interested individuals was formed in April 2007 and facilitators were hired following the city’s decision in 2006 to kill the West Eugene Parkway. Now the pressure’s on to make progress toward solutions.
We hear Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Paul Holvey have voiced their concerns about the lack of visible progress on the WEC. And Mayor Kitty Piercy is heavily vested in the WEC. We suspect she’d like to see something happen before the November election. WEC members met with Prozanski and Holvey last week, and the next general meeting is June 26. This project is too important to rush, but we predict we will soon be seeing progress toward recommended solutions. Get updates at www.westeugenecollaborative.org
• We heard from a stripper by email over the weekend. She was responding to letters and news stories about the controversial location proposed for a strip club near a high school in Springfield. We have a decades-long tradition of not running letters with assumed names, but we can pass along her irritation about strippers being belittled in print. She says she’s been dancing for almost two years at the Silver Dollar Club in Eugene. “I can say first-hand that the vast majority of the dancers here are amazing, talented, intelligent, beautiful human beings,” she writes. “Many of us are paying our way through school, and for us, stripping is just a stepping stone on to bigger and better things. It takes real strength (physically and emotionally) to do well in this industry, not desperation.”
• The short story about proposals for the Sears pit on this page is greatly expanded with images this week at blogs.eugeneweekly.com The five proposals were on display at the Eugene Public Library June 17, and one of our favorites is the Opus building designed for 472 college students. No nice park in the plan, but an infusion of that many residents would give downtown a big boost. And Opus would actually buy the property from the city for $482,000. Other proposals would pay far less or virtually nothing.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
STACEY JONES AND KYLIE MCGILL
After Stacey Jones had finished three years of high school in Rogue River, her family moved to Denver. “I couldn’t deal with the huge school,” says Jones, who returned to Oregon on her own to work and earn a GED at the Angel Job Corps Center on the coast. She also met and married Jason Jones. The couple lived in Lincoln City and Medford before moving to Eugene in 1998. “I did clerical work for Harry & David,” she says. “I didn’t like sitting eight hours a day.” Jones found more amenable work as a custodian in the 4J School District. “My second interview was at Edison School,” she says. “I walked in the door and loved the place.” After eight years on evening shift at Edison, she became head custodian last fall. With help from parent Susan Daniel and student volunteers like fourth-grader Kylie McGill, Jones launched a composting program for lunchroom scraps on Earth Day. “I was appalled at how much food is thrown away,” she says. “We’ve gathered more than 700 pounds since April. The kids separate out fruits and veggies and recycle plastics before they go out to play.”