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Sidewalk Protester to Sue City

An anti-logging protester has filed an intent to sue the city, alleging police falsely arrested, jailed and injured him and violated his free speech rights.

According to a press release, Josh Schlossberg and his attorney Lauren Regan of the Civil liberties Defense Center, filed a tort claim notice this month regarding the March 13, 2009 incident.

The press release says Schlossberg was legally distributing brochures from a public sidewalk in front of Umpqua Bank in downtown Eugene. Schlossberg was informing bank customers of the "irresponsible logging and harmful pesticide practices" of Umpqua's chairman of the board, Allyn Ford.

The press release alleges that EPD officer Bill Solesbee unlawfully ordered Schlossberg to leave the sidewalk and give him his video camera. When he refused the press release alleges, "Solesbee charged Schlossberg, wrenched his arm behind his back, forced him to the ground where Schlossberg hit his head, and proceeded to place a knee on Schlossberg's previously injured neck, while handcuffing and arresting him."

The press release says Schlossberg filed a complaint with the police, but the Chief dismissed it.

The case is one of several recent incidents in which sidewalk protesters have alleged that police violated their free speech rights. Ian Van Ornum alleged Solesbee and other officers used excessive force at an anti-pesticide protest last spring. Video showed police Tasered Van Ornum twice in the back as he lay face down on the sidewalk with one or both arms behind his back.

In another recent incident, an officer arrested a man for leafleting outside a church. The unlawful charges were later dropped and the officer reprimanded.

"By utilizing a militarized presence, heavy-handed tactics, Tasers, and unjustifiable arrests against nonviolent citizens, law enforcement is attempting to scare people into silence and apathy," Regan states. "This case will determine whether the citizens of Eugene still have the constitutional right to lawfully convey thoughts and ideas to their fellow citizens in public forums-a quintessential principle of our democracy."