It was Kids Day, a part of Occupy the Trees, a weeklong Earth Day-oriented celebration. But the April 25 children’s event ended dramatically with two mothers pepper sprayed by Eugene police and children crying, according to attorney Lauren Regan.
Kids Day consisted of a kids’ march and a scavenger hunt for nature items, as well as speeches from children about the environment, according to a press release from Occupy Eugene.
The issue began with children playing in the shrubbery at the park. Regan says the “cops were pretty aggressive right off the bat,” when they warned the mothers that their children were not allowed to play in the bushes at the Park Blocks.
The young mothers, who are in their twenties, according to EPD records, were given tickets for “Violation of Park Rules — Damaging Vegetation.”
“It sounds ridiculous but it actually is an offense that can lead to exclusion from the downtown zone,” Regan says.
She questions why mothers were ticketed for the actions of their young children and asks why the officer didn’t approach “with a smile on his face and say, ‘Hey kids why don’t you get out of the planting area, we are trying to grow flowers.’”
According an EPD information officer, “When the officer contacted the women to talk about the children’s behavior, the two became hostile and refused to comply with the rule or to provide their names. As a consequence, the officer issued the two parents” the citations for damaging vegetation.
EPD says later that evening, around 5:30 pm, “Roughly 20 people were gathered in the park blocks possibly to engage in protest activity although there was no clear indication of that.” An officer was giving out police stickers nearby. According to EPD one of the mothers who had been ticketed “slapped his hand away telling the children to not accept stickers from the officer.”
Regan says the mothers, who are low income and one is transient, were upset by the ticket, which has a $155 base fine. They told their children not to take the stickers and according to witnesses told the officers they didn’t want their children to be given stickers. When the kid reached out to give the sticker, Regan says the mother, who EPD identifies as Angela Bartow, brushed the child’s hand away, but says the officer “claims somehow she brushed his hand.”
The incident is on video but has not yet been released. The children, Regan says, are around 4 years old.
Both mothers left the park and EPD says, “although she had committed the crime of physical harassment, because of the size and behavior of the group, the officer elected to not take action immediately.” EPD says the officer “chose to wait for a calmer time and place to either arrest or issue her a citation.”
Regan says Bartow “had her back to the police when all of a sudden the cop comes from behind and begins macing her without really saying anything to her about being under arrest or to put her hands behind her back.” The other mother, Ashley Dicharry, came up and put her arms around Bartow and was also sprayed.
One of mothers was yelling for someone to take the children away, Regan says, and as she was yelling the officer “lifts her up and does a wresting move on her and throws her on the ground.” Both women were bruised, Regan says. She adds that witnesses say one of the officers pointed a Taser at the women’s heads.
She says a number of people involved with Occupy Eugene who witnessed the event, including an attorney, say the police appeared to be trying to antagonize people.
“A bunch of kids started crying, and asking why the police ruined the event,” Regan says. She adds “it was a totally legal children’s event” and the police could have handled it differently. She asks, “What lawful justification does EPD have for using force and chemical weapons for people not placed under arrest, not resisting arrest and not a threat to the police?”
The charges the women were given include resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and harassment.