Students Protesting Pesticide Use Tasered
Two University students and a Eugene man were arrested at a downtown rally Friday afternoon on various charges, including resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, after police officers' use of a Taser on one provoked angry reactions from the other two.
Ian George Van Ornum, 18, and Anthony Jameson Farley, 22, both students, were arrested. Friends paid their bail and they were released from Lane County Jail on Friday. The Eugene man, David Alexander Owen, was also released.
Ornum organized the rally as a demonstration against the Oregon Department of Transportation's use of pesticide spray on the highways. Ornum was marching with a sign in Kesey Square at the corner of West Broadway and Willamette Street dressed in a white hazardous materials suit, spraying water from a pesticide can and asking onlookers, "Do you know you're being poisoned?"
At about 12:15 p.m., two police officers approached him because he was "in the intersection, blocking traffic, and spraying liquid out of the can on the ground," said Eugene Police Department Capt. Pete Kearns, who did not witness the incident.
According to a police release, Van Ornum said, "Do you want poison in your face?" when an officer approached him, and according to Kearns, the officer then told Van Ornum he needed to leave the street because blocking traffic was considered disorderly conduct.
The release said Van Ornum "was blocking and impeding traffic for more than two blocks," but onlookers and friends of Van Ornum told a different story.
"He stood on the corner holding his sign and not doing anything," said fellow student David Parziale, who was participating in the rally and saw the scene. He said Van Ornum was crossing the street when the police officer came up to him and "dragged him to the other side of the street."
Van Ornum tried to resist arrest and told the officers he was 17 to avoid charges, said Kearns. Police escorted him across the street, and when he continued to try to push himself away, they wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him.
"He pulled away and was swinging the handcuff around," Kearns said, "so they Tasered him. After the first Taser, he continued to struggle. The Taser was used one more time, and they were able to control him."
Parziale said he didn't see the same struggle police saw. He said Van Ornum "kind of just had adrenaline and was kind of moving around a bit." The Tasers seemed to come out of nowhere, said Parziale, who added that watching the two hits was frightening. "They Tased him once and he screamed and he started having seizure-ish movements," Parziale said. "I saw his eyes roll into the back of his head. He was in so much pain."
Farley and Owen tried to protest against Van Ornum's arrest, police said. According to the police release, Owen "ran at the officers in an attempt to interfere with the arrest" and Farley "swung his fists at the officers." Because Farley was reportedly acting violent, police deployed a Taser once to try to subdue him. About 20 minutes later, police arrested Farley and Owen, said University student Isobel Charle, who witnessed the incident.
Parziale and other friends of Farley and Van Ornum went to Lane County Courthouse later that afternoon and said they posted a $3,040 bail to release the two.
The University's Survival Center has organized a rally for this Thursday in support of Van Ornum and Farley, to take place in the EMU amphitheater at noon. By Sunday, nearly 100 people had confirmed attending on a Facebook event page for the rally.
News reporters Talia Schmidt and Jessie Higgins contributed to this report.
© 2008 Eugene Daily Emerald