A group of forest activists blockaded a county road near Humboldt Redwood Company’s Scotia sawmill Thursday afternoon, preventing logging trucks from pulling off Highway 101. The confrontation reached a flashpoint of sorts when one driver decided to drive right through a large banner being held by protesters in the street.
In video footage taken by a protester and uploaded to YouTube you can see the driver slow down slightly before rolling through the group of protesters, ripping the banner from their hands and dragging it out onto the freeway.
A link to the video was sent to the Outpost by both the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, representing the protesters, and a man who said he was in the passenger seat of the truck.
Not surprisingly, the two parties view the incident quite differently. Protesters say the driver barreled through a line of people who had to “frantically” leap out of the way while the purported truck passenger offered an “lol” and a laughing-face emoji.
A press release from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters describes the incident thusly:
As demonstrators talked to some HRC employees and truckers and played music, suddenly a big rig truck with its bed folded up came from the mill and without slowing, plowed through the 15 ft. long banner, being held by people at either side, with others gathered around the banner. As people frantically leapt out of the way, yelling at the driver to stop, he kept going, narrowly missing a number of people as they scattered.
The passenger, who asked to remain anonymous, messaged the Outpost on Facebook:
Then he added:
A Humboldt Redwood Company employee called the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office around 2:30 p.m. Thursday to report that protesters were blocking the driveway into the mill, creating a safety hazard by preventing trucks from exiting the freeway, according to Public Information Officer Samantha Karges.
By the time deputies arrived, about an hour later, the California Highway Patrol was already on scene, and the protest broke up shortly thereafter, Karges said. The Sheriff’s Office is not investigating the event any further. “The situation would be a little different if he [the driver] hit someone and there was criminal intent,” Karges said.
Paul Craft, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said his agency is likewise not investigating the matter any further.
A description that accompanies the video on YouTube identifies the truck as belonging to Hooper Trucking in Eureka. We called and spoke to an employee who said we should call back later and speak with owner Doug Hooper, but the line has been busy each time we’ve called since.
Coincidentally, an article about the recent skirmishes between protesters and the Humboldt Redwood Company was published by California Magazine yesterday, right about the time this particular protest was taking place. You can read reporter Glen Martin’s piece here.
And below you’ll find some photos and a press release from the Berkeley-based Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters.
Scotia, CA—A “Week of Action for the Mattole Forest” wrapped up with demonstrations and rallies at the Humboldt Redwood Co. (HRC) corporate offices in Scotia, CA, and then heated up with road blockades nearby at HRC’s lumber mill, as semi-trucks loaded with trees rolled into the facility. Activists held large banners reading “HRC Out of the Mattole,” and “Hack n’ Squirt =Fire Hazard and Puts Communities at Risk,” referring to the practice called hack and squirt that douses hardwoods of less value to the timber company with herbicides, killing the trees and creating huge stands of standing dead timber before loggers go in to cut the more marketable Douglas Fir. As demonstrators talked to some HRC employees and truckers and played music, suddenly a big rig truck with its bed folded up came from the mill and without slowing, plowed through the 15 ft. long banner, being held by people at either side, with others gathered around the banner. As people frantically leapt out of the way, yelling at the driver to stop, he kept going, narrowly missing a number of people as they scattered.
At issue for the Mattole Forest Defenders is a forest area containing ancient Doug fir trees and threatened species habitat in the Rainbow Ridge area of HRC holdings in the Mattole River watershed in Humboldt County. Residents, restorationists and activists have long advocated for protection of this forest, part of the large acreage purchased by HRC when it formed as an outgrowth of Mendocino Redwood Company, both owned by the Fisher family, whose retail empire includes the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores. The land changed hands when the former owner, Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber, went bankrupt in 2008 after their rapacious logging of ancient redwood forests spawned the so-called “timber wars” of the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.
Residents and restoration workers of the Mattole area formed the Lost Coast League to try to purchase the 1,100-acre Rainbow Ridge forest as a way to preserve the unique forest refugia that supports many rare and threatened species including the Pacific Fisher, Northern Spotted Owl, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Northern goshawk, and a large, rare and old-growth dependant [sic] medicinal mushroom, the agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis).
The Forest Defenders, separate from the Lost Coast League but with the same interests, have been using direct action, tree-sits, blockades and forest occupations to hold proposed logging at bay while others try to negotiate with the corporation.
The reckless act by the trucker at the HRC mill represents an escalation in threatening behavior, following on the heels of HRC’s hiring of paramilitary security contractors to clear protesters out of the forest.
The forest activists are regrouping as the week of action wraps up, intending to carry the forest defense campaign forward for as long as the forest is threatened with herbicides and logging.