By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
DEQ employees began arriving at the hearing about 4 p.m. The state agency later claimed that of the 28 employees who attended the meeting, 18 were assigned specific duties, such as manning public information tables. At 6:45 p.m., DEQ met with Captain Phillip Babb and Lieutenant Dorn, who were in charge of the sheriff's force. Both officers say that's when DEQ officials agreed to point out people to be arrested, and then to testify against them in court. Captain Babb said he also warned officials that, since the room had already begun to fill up, telling people to leave "might not be received very well."
Although officials planned to impose the arbitrary 100-person limit, by the time they stopped letting people inside, roughly 200 people had gained access. That's when environmentalists charge that Nancy Wrona, an assistant director for DEQ, began to point out people for arrest. Wrona strongly denied pointing out anyone, saying she had "no authority to ask the Sheriff's Office to arrest anyone, nor did I." But Pam Swift, head of one opposition group, says she saw Wrona pointing in her direction, where she was standing next to Phyllis Richline. Richline--whose hair is red, like Swift's, and who is similar in age--was later one of the first ones taken out of the hearing. Swift's account isn't conclusive, and from videotapes and other accounts, it's difficult to determine exactly what led to the arrests.
As the meeting begins, the room is crowded, but not full. People peer in through the windows. Timothy Barnes, an attorney serving as the hearing officer, calmly announces the time is 7 p.m. He immediately says that the fire code limits access to the room to 100 people--the number of seats that had been set up. The people standing would have to go outside, Barnes says. But the crowd is reluctant: Several members already know certain loudspeakers outside aren't working. DEQ officials later acknowledged that they attempted, to no avail, to fix some of the outside speakers. The agency claims the wires had been ripped out of the speakers' electrical systems, apparently by protesters.
After Barnes' announcement that the people must evacuate, not surprisingly, the room gets extremely noisy. DEQ couldn't have done much more to anger the crowd than announce that many people would have to leave. Protesters begin to clap and chant, "Outside, outside!"--hoping to move the entire meeting outdoors. The scene, though, is still much more subdued than the one at the California meeting. Barnes, nonetheless, became "very concerned with the potential for violence," according to the DPS report. The crowd eventually quiets down. "Please proceed in a more civil manner," Barnes says. "You call an incinerator civil?" someone yells back. The crowd starts chanting again.
Two minutes into the meeting, Barnes, attempting to continue the hearing, nods to a sheriff's deputy, who immediately puts a portable radio to his mouth and moves out of view of the camera. The chanting continues off and on for at least five minutes, but that is all that happens. There is no picketing, no threats of violence.
Greenpeace leader Bradley Angel--already known to sheriff's deputies--is shown on a videotape getting out of his seat. He then sits back down. While DEQ claims Angel was trying to "control the meeting," others would later testify that Angel was trying to quiet the crowd.
Then, according to witnesses, the first group of arrests begins.
Several bystanders claim at that point they saw Wrona go to a corner exit and again point out members of the crowd to a sheriff's deputy.
Wrona denies that--she says she only got out of her chair to close the door. But a video taken of the hearing shows Wrona get out of her chair at that point, walk to a corner exit, and apparently speak with someone wearing a hat. She goes back to her seat without shutting the door.
The video is by no means a smoking gun; on the tape, Wrona's actions are unclear and it is impossible to tell if the man in the hat is a deputy--as protesters claim--let alone what is said between the two individuals. What happens next speaks for itself.
Deputies, according to witnesses, came after Angel, and people standing around him began to lock arms together.
That's when the stun guns, which can give a jolt of up to 40,000 volts, came out. TV cameras captured police using the stun gun on one of the two women who locked arms with Angel. "It was so strange, so shocking, so removed from context, that the mind just seemed to transfer to the question of, 'Why, why, why is this happening?'" says Betty Langen, who witnessed the scene from the front row. Witnesses became suspicious of the selectiveness of the arrests after Angel and ten others had been dragged out. Although the crowd was still well over the DEQ-decreed 100-person limit, officials went on with the hearing. Deputies, contradicting DEQ claims, later said at least three of those arrested were pointed out by DEQ employees. Two people were arrested who flashed protest signs. By the end of the evening, the police had used the stun guns on five people, and a total of 18 individuals had been arrested. More than 70 people eventually spoke, the vast majority against the facility. About 350 people had signed the DEQ guest book. Within a few days, Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos was calling his deputies' use of stun guns on passive resisters "innappropriate." He would later sympathize with the protesters. "Had I gone down there to attend this meeting and was then told I had to leave the meeting room, I, too, would have been very angry," the sheriff said. But his sympathy had its limits: He would only "verbally reprimand" the deputies involved.