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Federal agent spied on rally.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

An undercover federal agent secretly watched a downtown Eugene anti-pesticide rally on May 30 and was the person who asked Eugene police to come to the scene - triggering events that culminated with the controversial stun-gun arrest of a University of Oregon student.

Reports filed by Federal Protective Service agents Tom Keedy and William Turner show that Keedy surveyed the May 30 Kesey Square rally from an unmarked vehicle because federal officials worried that the demonstrators might march five blocks to the federal courthouse on East Eighth Avenue.

While monitoring the event, Keedy called Eugene police Sgt. Bill Solesbee to report that a protester - later identified as UO student Ian Van Ornum, 18 - was blocking traffic. A Eugene officer ultimately used his Taser stun gun to subdue and arrest Van Ornum.

A federal spokeswoman said Keedy was simply doing his job.

"The (agents') responsibility is to provide security in and around federal buildings," said Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which employs Federal Protective Service officers. The agency is a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"He was watching to see if a demonstration was coming toward the federal courthouse," Dankers said. "He was anticipating where the crowd would go, and that is part of his responsibility."

Dankers said it is "routine" for Federal Protective Service agents to monitor public demonstrations such as the Kesey Square event.

"It's not uncommon," she said. "Not only in Eugene, but elsewhere as well."

That's news to David Fidanque, executive director of the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"This is the first I've ever heard of Federal Protective Services engaging in this type of ridiculous activity," Fidanque said.

"There is a chilling effect on free speech and free assembly anytime federal officers monitor political activity or anyone exercising their constitutional rights," he said. "No branch of federal government should be doing this unless they have specific evidence that someone might be involved in illegal activities."

Fidanque said he plans to alert the national ACLU office that Federal Protective Service officers are monitoring legal demonstrations occurring away from federal property.

The reports by Keedy and Turner - who arrived at the rally after Van Ornum was arrested - indicate confusion on the part of the federal agents about who sponsored the rally.

The reports show that federal officials mistakenly believed that a Greenleaf-based anti-pesticide group called The Pitchfork Rebellion organized the demonstration.

The agents also believed - incorrectly - that the Pitchfork Rebellion also spearheaded a March 7 rally in Eugene that did include a march to the federal building.

The May 30 event was in fact organized by a UO student group - Crazy People for Wild Places - that was protesting herbicide spraying by the Oregon Department of Transporation along state-owned highways.

The March 7 rally - a protest against federal logging plans - was organized by the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group.

The Greenleaf group's leader, organic farmer David "Day" Owen, spoke at both rallies.

Owen, 50, was arrested at the May 30 rally along with Van Ornum and Anthony Farley, 22.

Owen acquired the federal police reports from his attorney, who obtained them from prosecutors who may file criminal charges against the three men. Owen supplied the Keedy and Turner reports to The Register-Guard earlier this week.

"I'm shocked that I am now being targeted by Homeland Security," said Owen, who said his only involvement in the rally was as a speaker.

He said students had no plans to demonstrate outside the federal courthouse on May 30, when he, Farley and Van Ornum went to jail.

Even if that had happened, Owen insists that his group would not involve itself in any destructive or threatening act of civil disobedience.

"We aren't ecoterrorists, and we do not advocate property damage or anything like that," he said. "We are totally nonviolent."

While his group includes several neighbors who live in the Coast Range near Triangle Lake, Owen said The Pitchfork Rebellion "is basically me and my wife."

Owen has been a leading opponent of aerial herbicide spraying on private timberland, which he says has sickened his family and neighbors.

In the wake of the May 30 rally, there's been intense public criticism of and support for the Eugene police officers' actions - primarily focused on the officer who used his Taser on Van Ornum.

The teen and more than a dozen rally attendees have filed complaints with city officials, alleging that police used excessive force in arresting Van Ornum on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Owen and Farley face similar charges.

But Eugene police did not see any need to monitor the rally until Keedy called Solesbee to tell him that Van Ornum was blocking traffic at Broadway and Willamette Street while dressed in a white exterminator's outfit.

At the time, Van Ornum was walking near vehicles and spraying water from a large bottle in an act intended to alert passers-by to health dangers posed by pesticides.

Keedy, in his report, wrote that Van Ornum "became uncooperative" when a Eugene officer arrived and tried to escort the teen out of the street. Keedy wrote that he "heard the distinct sound of a taser being deployed," but his report does not indicate that he saw Van Ornum shot with the stun gun.

Owen was later taken into custody by federal officer Turner, who reported that he was cleared to go to the rally by the "Denver Mega-Center," a dispatch center that monitors federal government facilities across the Western United States.

Owen says he is a victim of police brutality and will fight any criminal charges filed against him. He said police knocked him unconscious after he "jogged" toward them to ask why they were hurting Van Ornum.

Eugene Police Chief Robert Lehner has said the city police officers were justified in their actions. He said Owen and Farley "physically attacked the officers" who arrested Van Ornum. Lehner also said Van Ornum fought with police after they led him from the street and took him into custody.

Lehner on Wednesday declined to comment further on the incident, citing ongoing criminal and internal investigations.

The city's Civilian Review Board will review officer misconduct allegations following the completion of a criminal probe centering on Van Ornum, Owen and Farley.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; The undercover officer called in police, which led to the stun-gun arrest of a protester
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 4, 2008
Words:1051
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