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Out of the Woods

As Pepper Spray Trial III gets underway in San Francisco, it's worth noting that environmental activism isn't just a lifestyle in Humboldt County--sometimes it's a matter of life and death. Back in 1997, eight members of North Coast Earth First! were pepper-sprayed by Humboldt County Sheriff's Department officers--some activists had the burning, toxic substance swabbed directly into their eyes with Q-tips--and are seeking compensation for damages in federal court for the third time, after the first two trials ended in hung juries. Yet the so-called Pepper Spray 8 got off lucky, relatively speaking. In 1998, an angry logger felled a tree that struck and killed North Coast Earth First! activist David "Gypsy" Chain. Last month, North Coast Earth First! activist Shunka Wakan filed a criminal homicide complaint against Maxxam-owned Pacific Lumber for Gypsy's death, calling for Humboldt County officials to reopen the investigation. "I believe that David Chain's death was no mere accident," says Wakan. "Reopening the investigation would reveal both an act of violence, on behalf of Maxxam/Pacific Lumber, and a blatant cover-up, on behalf of the former sheriff, district attorney and homicide detective." When Humboldt County activists aren't being assaulted by local law-enforcement officials and/or angry loggers, they occasionally pull off major victories, such as the State Water Resource Control Board's recent issuance of a stay against Pacific Lumber's timber harvest plans in the Freshwater Creek area near Eureka. The timber plans were approved last month in Santa Rosa by the North Coast Regional Water Control Board. The stay was requested by the Sierra Club, Humboldt County's Environmental Protection Information Center and the Humboldt Watershed Council.

Stamp of Disapproval

Singularly named Guerneville stamp artist Harley is ecstatic that last week the U.S. Secret Service dropped in on "Axis of Evil: The Secret History of Sin," an exhibit of provocative, politically charged stamp art at Chicago's Columbia College that includes Harley's work as well as that of North Bay artists Tim Mancusi and Qursad Karatos.

"I think it's terrific publicity," says Harley in all earnestness.

Apparently, some patrons had taken umbrage with a stamp in the show that depicted President George W. Bush with a revolver pointed at his head, and called the Secret Service. The piece was titled "Patriot Act." The agents requested names and addresses of artists participating in the show, but were told the information wasn't available, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's just another part of the great march backwards we're engaged in," says Harley.

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From the April 20-26, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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