Categorized | Local, Opinion

Verbena V. Eureka

 

Occupy Eureka and the Scales of Justice

 

By Mitch
Guest Post to the Sentinel

 

Kim Starr, aka Verbena, is one of the people who spent time working with Occupy Eureka when they staged a protest in front of the Eureka Courthouse.

She’s also a member of the group called “Copwatch” which videotapes the police.

Verbena Kim StarrVerbena is not afraid to be rude or antagonistic.  She was born, perhaps, to be behind a bullhorn.  

Like all American citizens, Verbena is theoretically guaranteed certain rights by the Constitution of the United States.  These rights only exist to the extent that our elected officials and law enforcement officers are reminded of their existence, to the extent they are told they’ll lose office and perhaps go to jail unless they enforce them.  

We all like “freedom of speech” until American Nazis decide they’d like to march — then many people get upset when fans of the Constitution point out that our liberties are only solid if they are applied equally to those we may find
repulsive.  When the Nazis lose their civil liberties to march in public, we’ve
all lost our civil liberties; liberties that apply only to the popular are not liberties
at all.  People who aren’t fond of Nazis should understand this; not all do.

It’s hard for me to imagine a less pleasant demonstration than the one staged by Occupy Eureka at the courthouse a year and a half ago.

Occupy Eureka2It succeeded in uniting much of Eureka’s population behind one desire — to clean up the courthouse grounds and get rid of the mentally ill people who were staging a 24 hour nuisance and party.  If that was not the goal of Occupy Eureka, it can honestly be said that it failed completely and spectacularly.

Occupy, with its noble but problematic concept that decisions be made by consensus of who shows up, and with its antagonism to the idea of leaders imposing directions, was a sitting duck for a takeover of their efforts.  

The police did not do a good job of dealing with the mentally ill people who formed a hazard in front of the courthouse, and the compassionate members of Occupy tried to help those people rather than send them away.

When people see a dozen concerned citizens trying to make a point, along with one or two mentally ill people yelling obscenities in their faces, they tend to focus on the mentally ill people yelling obscenities.  To the extent that the dozen concerned citizens are the ones who attracted the mentally ill to the area, the general Eureka population proved uninterested in the point the twelve might be making.

Occupy Eureka4Unfortunately, Occupy and its hangers-on generated enough disgust and dismay that the county and city felt moved to restrict rights in the interest of moving it along.  With an “urgency ordinance” put in place quickly enough that no real thought was given to its Constitutional problems, law enforcement was able to move in late in 2011 and force the Occupy campers off the courthouse lawn.

On November 7th, in pre-dawn hours, the campers were rousted and instructed to move their belongings across the street from the courthouse.  

Video of the scene shows a bedraggled group of perhaps a dozen or 20 people dragging stuff across the street in compliance with instructions from law enforcement.  Video shows one guy playing bongo drums and Verbena, camera and bullhorn in hand, shouting.  Shortly afterwards, the Eureka Police Department declared the group across the street from the courthouse an “unlawful assembly,” ordering it to disperse.  Verbena did not, and was arrested.

Verbena says that some of her property, including a pop-up canopy that remained across the street from the courthouse lawn that morning, was seized by Eureka police.  It remained in police hands for five months, ostensibly for use as evidence, though it was never used as evidence. 

Occupy Eureka5Despite repeated attempts, including repeated trips to Eureka Police Department, Verbena was never able to get some of the property back. The pop-up canopy came back broken, I believe.  I’ve heard that the internal cords holding it together had been intentionally severed, but I haven’t seen that, and I couldn’t know who might have done that or when.

Verbena was arrested again three days later.  

According to a digital audio recording made by the arresting officer, Sergeant Guy of the Eureka Police Department, it took about 20 seconds from the time Guy
exited his cruiser to the time he had Verbena in custody.  

Guy testified at the criminal trial that he arrested Verbena because she was unruly and encouraging resistance to his mission, which was to keep people from sleeping on the lawn.  But the audio recording indicates otherwise, with no shouting preceding the arrest.  (I haven’t heard the tape but have heard descriptions of it.  At most, Verbena may have said “people need to rest.”)

After the criminal trial regarding that arrest, which included testimony from Verbena, Sgt. Guy, and eyewitnesses to the arrest, a jury ruled 10-2 for Verbena’s acquittal.

Verbena was arrested once again, at the end of the month.

courthouseShe sued in small claims court, alleging that her civil rights had been violated and that her property had been unfairly taken.  The hearing happened over the past two weeks, in front of a judge, Arvid Johnson, brought in from outside the county.

I decided to attend after the first day, at least when I was able, because I didn’t find any reporting of the hearing in the county’s paid media, and I viewed the Constitutional violations used to up-end the Occupy group as tragic.

I never did hear any coverage of the hearing until after it had finished, when the Times-Standard published a press release generated by the City of Eureka.  It accurately stated that the judge had found against Verbena on all three events about which she was suing.  

Occupy Eureka6I’m writing this because it’s hard for me to understand how an objective observer could listen to the digital audio recording as described and not reach the conclusion that Sergeant Guy’s testimony about Verbena’s arrest was erroneous.  Yet that testimony did not pose any problem for the visiting judge, who ruled the testimony credible.  If he had not, he would have had to take Verbena’s Constitutional claims more seriously.

It’s nice to be able to think that the problems of society will be dealt with by “someone else.”  

You pay your taxes, and, you hope, the government will do its job more or less acceptably; it will  fix the potholes, keep you safe, and administer justice.  If we can convince ourselves that other people are doing the dirty jobs necessary to run a society, we can remain on the sidelines and feel that things will function without our direct attention. 

Occupy Eureka7There are times, of course, when it becomes evident that the government is not doing its job acceptably. When I was in junior high and early high school, increasing numbers of protesters took to the streets against the government’s decisions about the Vietnam War.  Few things concentrate the mind as much as the realization that you or your friends might get drafted to get killed in a war against a group of southeast Asian peasants who have done you no wrong.

Somehow, around the time of the affable-appearing salesman Ronald Reagan, we largely seem to have decided as a nation that the government is doing — more or less — an acceptable job of things, and that we don’t need to intervene personally.

But what happens when someone sues for their rights and, perhaps because of their obnoxious behavior, a judge does not attempt to administer justice?  What happens when no one from society’s supposed watchdog, the “free press,” bothers to attend the trial, or even mention its existence until it’s over?

Occupy Eureka8On a larger scale, what happens when a set of bankers is allowed to rob a nation’s pension funds, or when a set of executives decide to rob California’s “little old lady” electricity consumers, or when a set of oil executives decide they can risk drilling in the Gulf of Mexico because it is completely safe.  What happens when a society continues acting as though more equals better, even when “more” civilization is destroying the environment that supports civilization itself?

What happens when the government doesn’t intervene, because expensive lobbyists represent the bankers and the executives and the oil companies, and lobbyist-Congressmen realize that they need those lobbyists’ money to buy the expensive propaganda campaigns that they must use to convince enough of the electorate to vote against their own interests?  What happens when a stint in Congress or government office becomes an entree into the lucrative field of lobbying, instead of an opportunity to take part in moral self-government?

scales of justiceWhat happens when people protest that despicable behavior, and the disastrous effects that behavior has had on our society, but the population is so bothered by the mentally ill people that are attracted to the protest that they take sides against those who are protesting, even though their instinct, in many cases, is that the protesters are right about the problems to which they tried to call attention?

I think what happens is that society breaks down.  Government loses its ability to persuade people to sacrifice for moral reasons, because people no longer see any fairness in what the government requests.  I think, eventually, you get a population that sees the government as the enemy, instead of as its self-selected leaders.

And I think that’s what you’re seeing today.  Verbena, though obnoxious when speaking through her bullhorn, is right.

What are we going to do about that?

 

* * * * * * * * *

For those who may be unaware, here’s some background for Mitch’s guest post:

Verbena fistOn May 14, a Sacramento visiting judge sided with the City of Eureka and four members of its police force in a civil lawsuit brought by activist Kim “Verbena” Starr.

Starr claimed her civil rights were violated when she was arrested attending Occupy Eureka protests on three separate occasions, according to the Times-Standard and the City of Eureka’s press release.

In addition to Eureka Police Chief Murl Harpham, the suit named EPD sergeants Patrick O’Neil and Mike Guy, and Officer Terry Liles.

In his ruling, Judge Johnson stated that the City and its officers acted professionally, “despite the fact that there was ‘clear and immediate danger’ due to the protest and attempts by Occupiers to deliberately elicit a reaction from Officers,” according to the release.

Starr is just one in a group of people associated with the Occupy Eureka movement who filed claims for damages against the city, its police department and various county offices stemming from several incidents in November 2011, December 2012, and January 2013 in which Occupy protesters were arrested in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse by police.

 

The Humboldt Sentinel welcomes opinions, submissions, comments and suggestions from all points of view.

(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.  Posted by Skippy Massey)

6 Responses to “Verbena V. Eureka”

  1. Verbena says:

    “Video shows one guy playing bongo drums and Verbena, camera and bullhorn in hand, shouting.”

    Barring all other critique I could “obnoxiously” share regarding this article, I want to correct one thing: There was no moment during any of the three incidents from which my civil rights claims sprung where I was shouting with a bullhorn, or even HAD a bullhorn in my hands! The video from November 7, 2011 shows me filming. Filming with a video recorder.

    “I went to jail for 11 days for disturbing the peace; I was trying to disturb the war.” Joan Baez, 1967

    “You can film all day if you want- from across the street” EPD Sgt. Watson directing an Occupy Eureka participant on November 7th to go ‘across the street’- where I was then arrested for filming.

  2. Mitch says:

    I do recall seeing and hearing you using a bullhorn in video at the trial, and if I’m wrong about the date or somehow just imagined the bullhorn I apologize for my error.

  3. "Henchman Of Justice" says:

    Video of the scene shows a bedraggled group of perhaps a dozen or 20 people dragging stuff across the street in compliance with instructions from law enforcement. Video shows one guy playing bongo drums and Verbena, camera and bullhorn in hand, shouting. Shortly afterwards, the Eureka Police Department declared the group across the street from the courthouse an “unlawful assembly,” ordering it to disperse. Verbena did not, and was arrested

    Response: Typical public employees as instructed by elected official’s dupe ya, then arrest ya. Why cross the street to re-assemble when an arrest could have happened before crossing the street? Protesting is fine (blocking non-protestors from their daily activities IS NOT). A few malcontents cause problems and the whole student body is punished (feels like public school all-over-again, yikes). ALl elected officials in support of this “emergency ordinance” should not be re-elected because they are social treasonsists who abdicated their responsibilities to enforce the laws on the books for thos every few bad apples that were used by political insiders to graft and concoct their plan to disrupt the larger view.

    The same vehicle code laws, civil code laws, etc.. exist on both sides of the street – so why cause a fracas as law enforcement did?

    Answer: to incite anything in order to do something that does not effectually do anything.

    Cops are plane dumb people sometimes,

    Truly yours,

    HOJ

  4. Verbena, (aka Kimberly Starr), is not merely obnoxious; She is a sociopath who nonetheless, apparently has sufficient merit for the community to ignore her thievery.

    In late November 2011, I sublet a closet to sleep in at Sarah Holson’s apartment. Sarah Holson, had been recommended to me by Verbena. Verbena and Sarah Holson are partners in crime at PARC.

    After two weeks of apparently sharing this space without any problems, Sarah Holson decided she might be able to trade my hard disk for her next drug fix. She locked me out of the apartment. When I went to the police for the required “walk through” to get my stuff back, the police declined without explanation.

    Many months later, my recumbent bicycle, which had been chained to a tree outside of PARC was stolen. I also watched Verbena wearing an irreplaceable hand-made sweater my mother knitted for me. Apparently, Verbena & Co decided to steal everything I own. It had never occurred to me that an apparently well-meaning leftish activist “for the poor” would steal everything I (a homeless man) own. Nonetheless, that is exactly what happened. Furthermore, Verbena admitted to all of this. Apparently, I was not only to be abused by having everything stolen, but I was to be disabused of my belief that such behavior was wrong. Presumably, I (as a representative of the “white male”) deserved this abuse for the historical sins of my kind (whatever that is) of the past. Possibly, Verbana & co do not like the substance of the essay “VAWA & Fascism”, (Google it) so rather then write a thoughtful rebuttal, they chose to criminally abuse me. Verbana, basically, does not tolerate much deviation from her narrow leftish views, and she has little or no restraint when applying prejudice against those she feels are not “right thinking.”

    Verbena & co effectively stole at least ten years of my life by robbing the fruits of my labor. She is a sociopathic criminal that should be put in jail. But that will not happen, because I am male, she is female, and on the privileged side of the law. Eureka itself, is so besieged with crime, that the police basically ignore robbery complaints, even when the perpetrators have committed their crimes in the open. This leaves hate-filled, sexist community “leaders” like Verbana with a blank check for violating anyone they do not like.

    She has driven me out of the Eureka community, and has utterly transformed my appreciation for the “Left.” It is no longer puzzling that every fascist in the last century came from the Left; those people think they know better what to do with your life, thoughts, and property.

    John Bergamini

  5. Verbena says:

    Uh… just saw this from a person who I considered, maybe not a friend, but a good acquaintance for several years, John Bergamini, aka Conspiracy Jack or Non-sequitur Jack (as some affectionately call him). WTF? I have never stolen anything from Jack; in fact, I used to hold onto his stuff for him so it was safe- his computer, sleeping bag, etc. Jack’s recombinant bike was locked up outside PARC for about a year because, Jack said, it needed repair. When the bike was stolen, I tried to confront the person who did it (we saw him with the bike in town!!) more than once. It is completely absurd for Jack to accuse me or anyone who works here of stealing! Wow.
    Jack availed himself for years of the computer, books, couches, internet, food, mail reception, cuddles from the dogs, and outside space at PARC. He meditated and rested in the yard (I guess that meditation has done nothing to rid him of delusions…) He often spoke about everything being stolen from him at the Mission, or pretty much wherever he went. And that women were privileged over men. I haven’t seen Jack for about a year, I think. But the last I knew, he was asked to leave where he was hanging out because he was asked by two women not to flirt with or massage them (in a community space) when it was unwelcome, and he continued anyway. That’s what I heard. Certainly, I did nothing to make it harder for Jack to be here, but after reading his wacko comment, I guess it is good riddance.

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