By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Charges were never filed against 11 of the 18 arrested at the hearing. The remaining defendants would become known as the "ENSCO Seven."
@body:Marlene Stephens and Brian Nicholas, who had spent their weekend calling hundreds of people to protest against ENSCO, both wound up missing the public meeting. They sat through the five-hour hearing in the back of a police van, parked a few miles away in the desert.
Both were arrested and stunned by deputies. Stephens, a local environmentalist, was perhaps the most shaken by the police that night. She was one of two women who hooked arms with Bradley Angel when police came after him. A sheriff's deputy shocked her with a stun gun several times, including at least once after she had fallen to the floor. Nicholas was a California Greenpeace member at the time who had come out from San Diego to recruit people to attend the meeting. He was stun-gunned as he approached the entrance to the room while police were hauling out Angel and Stephens.
Along with Angel and several others, Stephens and Nicholas were then handcuffed and put in a police van, and driven out into the desert. They remained there until the meeting ended after midnight. "It was a considerable period of time," concedes deputy county attorney Maria Brandon. They sat in the dark, stuffy van, with no water and no access to rest rooms. Their hands were handcuffed behind their backs the whole time. Deputies, however, said those detained were treated humanely.
Stephens and Nicholas later wound up at Madison Street Jail, and were released the next day. Before she was let go, Stephens claims she was forced to give a urine test in front of male jail workers. Photos taken after the hearing show at least a dozen marks on her back she claims were caused by the stun gun. "It feels like you're being electrocuted," says Stephens, an epileptic. The day after the hearing, she showed her burns to television crews at a press conference at the capitol. Both Nicholas and Stephens believe they were targeted by police because they looked the part of environmentalists. Nicholas was a member of California Greenpeace--which police had been warned to look out for--and had long hair and a beard at the time. Stephens was standing near Angel. But police reports claim that in a crowd where everyone was making noise, Nicholas and Stephens were among the ones causing the biggest disturbance. The summer following the hearing was "real scary," says Nicholas, as the protesters waited to find out what would happen. It was in that context that Stephens and Nicholas began dating. They now live together and manage the Sunnyslope Mobile Home Park in north Phoenix. Charges against Nicholas were never pursued, and Stephens' misdemeanor charge for disrupting the hearing was dismissed by a justice of the peace in Gila Bend.
"They had a real assumption that there was going to be anarchy," remembers Nicholas. "There was. But it was because of the cops."
@body:In the days and months following the hearing, ENSCO's support slowly began to dwindle away. Legislators, who had sort of winked and nodded throughout the creation of the facility, began to feel the heat.
"I don't think they were paying a heck of a lot of attention to it until the brouhaha," says a legislative analyst who followed ENSCO from the beginning. "After that, so many of the public were asking so many serious questions, they couldn't ignore it."
Almost immediately after that May meeting, Governor Mofford called for a complete review of the toxic-waste plan and extended the public input period. A public meeting that summer drew a crowd of more than 3,000 to Phoenix Civic Plaza.
And Fife Symington, who promised to dump ENSCO in his campaign, was elected governor in February 1991. By May the deal to boot ENSCO was cut. Company officials took $45.5 million in a settlement back to ENSCO headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. The contract was officially closed in September 1991. Talk of lawsuits against the county and state began immediately after the hearings. In the end, five people filed claims. Last month, however, Superior Court Judge Michael Wilkinson cleared DEQ's Nancy Wrona and Timothy Barnes of wrongdoing, saying there wasn't "a scintilla of evidence" that state and county officials had made an agreement to arrest those exact people. The judge acknowledged that DEQ had made mistakes in planning the meeting, but didn't believe the state was responsible for what eventually happened.
The judge also dismissed charges that protesters had been falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted. Other charges against the county--such as claims that deputies used excessive force and intentionally inflicted emotional distress--will go before the court in June.
Those who were arrested in Mobile know the importance of their victory over ENSCO. For some, that is not enough.
"Why risk speaking out if you're going to have an arrest record and a damaged reputation?" asks David Blais, who was one of the last of the "ENSCO Seven" to be acquitted. Blais, who wasn't a protester or a member of any environmental group, attended the hearing simply to distribute campaign literature for a candidate for attorney general. "There's definitely a scare factor that it can instill in the public. It shouldn't be a risk to go to a public hearing, but it was that night.