Environmentalists Converge on Timber Mill; 44 Arrested
SAMOA, Calif. (AP) _ Hundreds of environmentalists demonstrated outside a giant lumber mill Wednesday and 44 were arrested in a ″Redwood Summer″ protest of logging that they say endangers California’s ancient forests.
About 350 protesters environmentalists and a sprinkling of labor union activists demonstrated at the coastal Louisiana Pacific mill as part of a summer of protests planned by the militant Earth First 3/8 environmental coalition.
About 250 miles to the southeast in the Sierra Nevada range, a group of loggers was fired on Wednesday by gunmen with semi-automatic rifles, but no one was hit and authorities didn’t draw a connection with the demonstration on the coast.
Redwood Summer organizers hope activists from around the country will converge on northern California’s redwood country to protest logging of ancient trees in an environmentalists’ reprise of the 1964 ″Freedom Summer″ civil rights demonstrations in Mississippi. They demand an end to what they say is excessive clear-cut logging, and cutting of virgin redwood trees.
Mainstream environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have shunned the plans and disavow the tactics of Earth First 3/8 Followers of the loosely- organized group advocate what they call direct action to protect the environment, including standing between loggers and trees.
The group renounced its old practice of driving spikes into tree trunks to make them useless as lumber after sawmill workers were hurt by the spikes.
Wednesday’s demonstration was the first in the redwood country of northern California’s coast range, though a previous Redwood Summer rally was held in Sacramento.
The protest outside the plant 275 miles north of San Francisco was largely peaceful except for name-calling between demonstrators and plant workers or passing drivers.
After several hours, a contingent of protesters marched onto company property and approached officers in what they called ″a planned act of civil disobedience.″
Forty-four of them were arrested, most for trespassing, said Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff Leona Mendenhall. Most were issued citations and released.
As the demonstrators gathered at the mill gate and across the street on coastal sand dunes, police said members of the Greenpeace environmental group in a small boat tried to approach a Louisiana Pacific freighter that was being loaded at the company’s dock.
Authorities ordered the boat away, according to a police dispatcher. No arrests were reported.
At one point, a dozen Humboldt County sheriff’s deputies were called out to head off a confrontation between the demonstrators and plant workers, who staged a pro-company rally during their lunch break. There were heated exchanges of epithets.
Duane Plant, a lumber worker who carried a sign urging a stop to ″environmental terrorists,″ said Louisiana Pacific’s logging practices were proper.
″They scare me,″ Plant said of the radical environmentalists. ″I am afraid of getting hurt. I am afraid of my kids getting hurt. I can’t believe they’re not violent.″
Demonstrator David Solnit, 26, a carpenter from San Francisco, said logging practices must be changed.
″We’ve got to save what’s left of the forests,″ Solnit said. ″They (Louisiana Pacific officials) are acting like outlaws and we need to take direct action.″
In an apparently unrelated incident in the Sierra County, two or three people with semi-automatic rifles fired up to 300 rounds at a group of loggers Wednesday, said sheriff’s dispatcher Fred Burns. Nobody was hurt, and two people were arrested, Burns said, adding that it appeared the gunmen were trying to scare the loggers rather than injure them.
″I think with 300 rounds they could have hit someone if they wanted to,″ Burns said. ″But that’s a presumption.″
Fears of violence escalated in recent weeks after a bomb went off in a car carrying Earth First 3/8 leaders Judy Bari and Darryl Cherney. Earth First 3/8 members say the two were targets of a bomber, but police have booked Bari and Cherney on investigation of illegally transporting explosives.
On Tuesday, more than 100 Earth First 3/8 followers camped in the woods near remote Honeydew, a two-hour drive south, and spent most of the day huddled in non-violence training sessions.