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Carlotta Revisited (November 20, 1996)

I went to Carlotta, that little mill town in Humboldt County, on November 15. Exactly two months ago myself and 1032 others were arrested for trespassing at this same location. This was, ostensibly, a rally to save the coho salmon, another victim of human overpopulation in general but more immediately of overlogging. It was really a rally to save Headwaters from Hurwitz's chainsaws.

I'm getting accustomed to my regular walk down Fisher Road, which winds down the hill from Highway 36, about five miles east of 101 north of Scotia. It's only about two miles long and it dead-ends at the infamous Fisher Gate — the entrance to Pacific Lumber's property. It's not very imposing, just one of those common metal gates you see wherever logging roads exit from the public domain. Behind the gate, a PL road runs perpendicular to Fisher Road. As you face the gate, there's a lot of stacked trees on your left. Today, there's also about 15 police vehicles. On the right, today, is a dark plastic sheeting about 30 feet long and eight feet high. I believe it was placed there to keep protesters from seeing what happened to their arrested fellows. The gate at the end of the road is open, a kind of invitation from spiders to the flies. Across the open gate stand about 30 shock troops, in their formal riot control dress, complete with visors and billy clubs, waiting for the onslaught of rabid Earth First! fanatics.

If you were to turn your back on the gate, however, you would be treated to a quiet, pastoral scene. It's a very flat spot in an otherwise hilly landscape. A few modest residences and pastures on both sides of the road. The forested hills rise up on all sides. Cows graze, completely oblivious to the nearby human drama. It's a beautiful, peaceful looking place.

It was mostly cloudy and cool, with a suggestion of rain that never materialized. Perfect weather for a demonstration.

There is about eight feet of downsloping shoulder between the road and the blackberry-covered fences on both sides. The demonstration was confined to the space between the fences, and police vehicles cruised back and forth to keep people off the road. To keep the road open to traffic, I suppose, but the police vehicles were 99% of the traffic. There was a freshly-painted orange dotted line down the center of the road, making it a two-lane road so there would be less room for the demonstrators. They made sure all the vehicles were parked off the road on the shoulder.

Now the activities begin. Darryl is up on the stage (a flatbed truck squeezed off the road). Speakers and singers take their turns as the Klingon vehicles disperse the crowd, which fills up the road again as soon as they pass. There's Estelle Fennel of KMUD counting heads. She says there's at least 450. Gordon Johnson pulls up in his ancient VW bug. He's no longer with KZYX, but there he is on a cell phone, calling in his news reports to Philo. A true newsman.

All ages are present. There's feisty seniors Margaret and Betty from Mendocino. There's a WWII veteran. He and his wife carry flags. They raise and release coho in the Mattole River. There's Captain Fathom and Dale. Lots of youngsters, some with nose rings, many more with more conventional hippie garb. At least two generations: Howie and his son, Joey. Diane and her daughter, Jade.

There's Naomi, passing out cardboard coho. There's Louis Korn, the tireless witness for peace and justice, with his arm in a sling. Louis is a genuine Saint. There's Chris, Anderson Valley's own “forest ranger.” She's been locked down, arrested and spent 4-5 days in jail. She has to go to court Monday, but today she's full of energy and dancing with the coho. There's “On the Virg” — he passed up his all night radio to make this scene. There's Alicia Little Tree, phoning in her report for Judi's KZYX show.

A truck with four port-a-potties moves through the crowd. Sorry folks, they're for the cops. Four or five hours with no toilets. We were bursting, but not with joy.

The move toward the gate begins as Alice DiMicele gets everyone up and dancing with the refrain, “Coho salmon not fade away.” Then the drummers, the heartbeat of the demonstration, begin, as we head for the Fisher Gate.

Not so many volunteered for arrest this time, since the cops said they were no longer going to be nice guys. No more arrest and release on the spot. Going to take you in. As we moved toward the gate, the cops moved out and forced us off the road. Those wanting to be arrested would sit down in the road, and sure enough, they were arrested. Then the police would retreat to the gate. Then they'd move out again. Keep 'em guessing.

The whole show stopped for a while when the chuckwagon arrived to hand out steaming Styrofoam to all the troopers. There was a limited supply of rice and beans for hungry protesters, diverted from Base Camp.

“They took Darryl!” Didn't like the way he was whipping up the crowd with his megaphone. “They took Naomi, too!” Not surprising that they would take the leaders, is it?

* * *

Although this action was only one-tenth the size of the September 15 demonstration, the energy and commitment remains high and the support has broadened considerably. Not only Earth First! and the usual local activists are in evidence, but new organizations are joining the ranks. Grandmothers To Save Headwaters, several who admit this is the first cause they have actively supported. Clergy To Save Headwaters, getting God on our side can't hurt. Naomi Steinberg, the radical rabbi of Carlotta, derided Hurwitz for screwing the employees of PL ever since he took over. And Business People To Save Headwaters. And Taxpayers To Save Headwaters. They complained to the Humboldt Supervisors about spending many tax dollars to defend Pacific Lumber's actions. We may be nearing the 100th monkey.

The next action planned is a walk from Scotia to San Francisco to start on November 23, with rallies planned along the 101 corridor, locally at Ukiah and Hopland.

Judi says “the trees have let me go,” it was reported. Maybe the trees have let you go, Judi, but you continue to inspire all who desire to save Headwaters.

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