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Dispatch from the Urban Timber Wars:

Home Depot Demonstration lands Five in Jail, one Hospitalized.

-Mike Derschmidt

Hi you-all. I just got out of Jail and I will explain a bit of my most recent excursions to the wild, urban style. Some Chicago area Earth Firsters!, Wild Onion EF! & Red Gate EF!, got together to bring the Home Depot and its customers a wee message regarding Home Depot's policy on lumber products from the ancient forests (old growth), or rather, their lack of policy.

We targeted Home Depot cuz they control 30% of the Do-It-Yourself home improvement market and are the largest purchaser of products from old growth forests. Part of a national day of action against Home Depot called by Rainforest Action Network.

The Action: 15 activists descended on the Home Depot on Chicago's near north side to conduct "dead rainforest tours."

Two folks, Phil and Mark, locked down on lumber racks half-way up and inside the store using steel tube lock-boxes, sporting logos that said "ZERO CUT."

Other teams in the store did more approachable dead rainforest tours, talking to customers in the store, pointing out what products came from what region of the world and explaining the environmental threats.

Further adding to the chaos, apparently somebody learned the intercom access code to all those floor phones, hmm, and they apparently felt the need to educate the consumers on the issues of deforestation and Home Depot's role in it.

For about an hour and a half, these announcements intermittently and mysteriously filled the super store. The store management, security, the 25-plus cops, 7 or more fire fighters and two paramedics were befuddled.

We started the action at about 11 in the morning and it took the cops about 40 minutes to arrive. . . then the Fire Department and Paramedics another 30 minutes. All the while these two with their big hearts and mouths ignored pleas to stop and remove from the racks. One cop, Perez, was the first on the scene and seemed fairly even-tempered, however several subsequent arrivals included hardass POs.

My undercover attempt to video document the events was found out and I was asked to turn off the video camera and then later asked to leave. I insisted to talk to the officer in charge, Perez, explaining I was a friend and there to look after the welfare of the activists. This young cop said ok, but reminded me that I was warned to leave and I could be arrested for trespassing.

I again explained that I was a friend of the activists and I asked if I could stay to look after the welfare of my friends. He agreed so long as I put away the camera and keep to a certain distance, a specific spot. I agreed and did so.

More cops were arriving as well as swelling Home Depot shoppers of 100-plus. Our brave hearts took full advantage of this audience, describing what Home Depot is doing and how they could choose to not purchase items in their store. The audience was mostly humored and not annoyed.... many were openly supportive as well as were some cops and the paramedics though more quietly.

The fire department then arrived and they used a big platform elevator to access the racks. They used a fork lift to remove a pile of wood above their heads. I thought it reckless and announced it as so but was ignored.

One of the hardass cops was involved in disassembling part of the racks and trying to move the two around, he was bit rough.

Additionally while disassembling some of the 4-foot 2"x6" boards used as shelf planking, at least one fell and knocked dizzy Jeff.

The fire department also covered both Jeff and Phil with a large tarp, then proceeded to use a chainsaw motor-like grinder/cutter to disassemble the actual rack... the crowd was moved back twice for sparks were flying everywhere..

The cops for a long time were pulling at their arms. Jeff at one point, in a lot of pain agreed to unlock so long as the one toughie was kept away. As soon as he unlocked this very cop attacked and literally choked Jeff 'til he lost consciousness. Phil was knocked around and pinned, he was shoved by one cop and forced to fall.

After this abuse by the cops, and because of a lack of trust, Jeff and Phil refused to carry themselves away. They had to be carried out.

Phil's charges, we believe are: Criminal trespass, Damage to property ($480), Resisting arrest.

Jeff: Criminal Trespass and other charges.

By this time I was outside and saw Phil being carried out. I was loading my camera when the same toughass cop came up and started to yell about how I was told no video. . . . I said "i left and i'm outside," he then said "you were asked to leave," so i said "the officer in charge, Perez, said we could observe," this cop was foaming. . . and said that he was a sergeant and ordered us to leave. . . I said ok it's over anyway.

I turned to go, walked to my van, about 75 feet away but still on the lot, when another officer came and said wait a minute.

He placed Yael, Mark and myself under arrest, first saying that we were warned and we still stayed around. I insisted that Perez said it was ok. He said that before that though, Home Depot asked us to leave. Although Mark had been kicked out for using the floor phones, Yael was never asked to leave, by either Home Depot employees or officers.

Jeff was hospitalized. The hospital checked out his swollen wrists and gave him a cat scan, they also documented red bruising all around Jeff's neck.

We were all locked up for about eight hours (short hunger strike) and I-Bonded out (released on our own recognizance. Our hearing was May 7th. . . . and all charges were dropped.

The sparse media was favorable; WGN-TV filmed some posters and an good interview with Carlos, another EF!er. "Home Depot says that they are being responsible and selling responsible wood products, when in fact they still carry wood products from old-growth forests," was the gist of the quote; Home Depot's response was merely a lame "we give our customers what they demand"-type excuse.

The protest was over around 1:30... two and a half hours of disrupting their business as usual.

We are gonna continue to fight it all...

 


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