ASHLAND — A former Ashland city councilman faces possible charges of disorderly conduct following an incident during a protest Tuesday caught on videotape and posted on YouTube.
The video shows Eric Navickas resisting an Ashland police officer's attempt to arrest him as the leader of the protest, organized to oppose the expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. The protest had spilled into the street, blocking traffic.
Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said his department will forward reports, statements and video footage to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office for consideration of possible charges against Navickas, who served on the City Council from 2006 to 2010.
"It appears pretty clear to me that Mr. Navickas was resisting and obviously in the middle of the street," Holderness said Thursday. "We decided just to make the decision as clear and objective as possible, so we are forwarding it to the D.A. "… but we do have the right to arrest him."
Officer John Perrone initially placed Navickas under arrest for disorderly conduct as the leader of the anti-expansion rally after protesters walked down the street without the proper permit, Holderness said. He said the protesters ignored several police warnings to return to the sidewalk and that Navickas was encouraging protesters to remain in the street.
Perrone used his own discretion and decided not to pursue Navickas and finish the arrest, said Holderness. Considering the number of protesters and the fact they returned to the sidewalk after Navickas was confronted, "it made more sense to deal with the issue later," Holderness said.
Perrone had responded to the protest after a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus driver complained protesters were blocking access to a bus stop.
Rainy weather and increased traffic during the late afternoon rally created a potentially dangerous situation for drivers and the protesters, Holderness said.
"Our number one concern was public safety," said Holderness, "not to get in any sort of an altercation."
Navickas, who did not respond to phone calls Thursday, told other local media outlets that although the protesters had no permit to march, police overreacted and used excessive force when he was being apprehended. Holderness said the video tells a different story.
"It would have been very difficult for the officer to have thrown Navickas like that from the way he was standing "… without bending his knees at all," Holderness said. "It looks like he (Navickas) helped himself onto the hood of the car."
The video can be seen on the Mail Tribune Facebook page.
Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.