SAN FRANCISCO — A lawsuit by anti-logging protesters whose eyes were swabbed with pepper spray was dismissed Monday by a federal judge, who said the officers used reasonable force.
A jury had deadlocked in August in the trial of a damage suit by the nine demonstrators, who accused Humboldt County and Eureka officers of brutality in their use of the chemical to break up sit-ins.
A retrial had been scheduled Nov. 16, but U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that a retrial was not needed because no reasonable juror could find using pepper spray to be excessive force.
He said the pepper spray caused only "transient pain" without significant risk of injury and was a legitimate means to end the protesters' effort to invade private property, obstruct business and hinder law enforcement.
The lawsuit stemmed from protests last fall in which opponents of Pacific Lumber Co.'s cutting of old-growth trees chained themselves together at company headquarters, and later at the Eureka office of Rep. Frank Riggs (R-Windsor), a logging supporter. At another protest, two men fastened themselves to logging equipment.
In all three instances, deputies and police warned the protesters, then applied cotton swabs doused in pepper spray to the corners of the demonstrators' eyes or eyelids.