Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Arcata resident Gregory Allen has appealed his dismissed lawsuit against the City of Arcata over the former 4/20 celebration in Redwood Park. Allen had filed suit against the city, Police Chief Tom Chapman, former City Manager Randy Mendosa and 10 other unspecified individuals alleging an illegal scheme to eliminate the annual 4/20 cannabis celebration in Redwood Park. The original suit alleged “an unlawful conspiracy” to deprive Allen and thousands of other 4/20 participants of their constitutional rights to free speech, peaceable assembly and petition for redress of grievances.
The lawsuit, filed by Eureka attorney Peter Martin, was tossed out in July by U.S. District Judge James Donato. He faulted Allen’s claims as being without merit, said the plaintiff had no standing to file the suit and that the statute of limitations had expired. The lawsuit was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning Allen couldn’t re-file. But that didn’t rule out an appeal.
The appeal, filed this week in U.S. District Court, restates the original claims and adds new demands. It also asks for a jury trial, punitive damages to be determined at trial, and attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit now claims that “people who entered the park to celebrate 420 were not permitted to enter the grassy area of the park, but were diverted into the adjacent community forest. Police officers unlawfully singled out those persons who gathered in the community forest for increased surveillance and enforcement, writing tickets for smoking and unlicensed dogs.”
The appeal states that city tactics to discourage 4/20 – tree maintenance, fertilizing the lawn with fish emulsion, posting signs stating that there was no 4/20 event – were a “subterfuge” which “Abridged, chilled and violated the rights of the plaintiff and the other 420 celebrants to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition for redress of grievances.”
The appeal includes information gained from another of Martin’s clients, former APD Officer Kevin Stonebarger. Stonebarger had previously tangled with the city over his dismissal from the department.
States the appeal, “...Chapman and Mendosa knew their conduct violated the people’s right to peaceably assemble.” Mendosa, states the suit, told Stonebarger that “the five-year plan to shut down Redwood Park 420 had been approved by the majority of the Arcata City Council.” Mendosa allegedly said that he met the councilmembers privately to gain their consent, and did not discuss the matter with the city attorney.
The appeal contests Judge Donato’s finding that the statute of limitations had expired on grounds that the five-year plan was a “continuous course of conduct,” with the “conspiracy” completed in 2014. Thus, it claims, the clock didn’t start running on the statute of limitations until April 20, 2014.
The reformulated suit now questions the professional competence of city personnel. Allen and Martin claim that “Mendosa and Chapman are not entitled to qualified immunity because no reasonably well-trained, competent and diligent City Manager or Police Chief in the Ninth Circuit would have failed to understand that the conduct described herein was unlawful.”
The lawsuit concludes by stating that there’s no way the city can make it up to those whose constitutional rights were trampled, so it should restore the 4/20 event and sponsor it itself.
“Defendant City should be required to bring the 420 celebrations in Redwood Park to their full strength of several thousand people that constitute the event before the defendants engaged in the unlawful conduct described herein. To make plaintiff whole, the City should be required to advertise the celebrations, provide adequate security and facilities, and treat the celebrants with dignity and respect.”