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  • D.A. charges former Ashland councilman

    Eric Navickas is accused of interfering with police, disorderly conduct during protest
  • ASHLAND — Former Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas has been charged with interfering with police and disorderly conduct after he allegedly resisted arrest during a June 28 protest on the Plaza.
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  • ASHLAND — Former Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas has been charged with interfering with police and disorderly conduct after he allegedly resisted arrest during a June 28 protest on the Plaza.
    The Jackson County District Attorney's Office filed two counts of interfering with police and one count of disorderly conduct against Navickas on Thursday but did not release the information until Monday.
    The incident was caught on video and posted on YouTube. The video appears to show 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. Navickas is scheduled to appear in Jackson County Circuit Court at 9 a.m. July 19, according to the district attorney's office.
    "I thought the charges handed down from the D.A.'s office were appropriate for the reports and footage we provided," said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness, though he added he wasn't happy there was a confrontation in the first place.
    Officer John Perrone initially had 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. The protesters ignored several police warnings to return to the sidewalk and Navickas was encouraging protesters to remain in the street, Holderness said.
    "I think what we need to emphasize is that citizens en masse were marching peacefully up Main Street," Navickas said.
    "The police, from my perspective, overreacted to what I believe is a basic constitutional right to assemble."
    Navickas said in the past he has been involved with protests in Ashland where citizens peacefully marched down the street without the proper permit to do so, and police did not get involved.
    "This is really unprecedented for the city to crack down like it did," he said. "I think it's a sad commentary on the state of our city and of our entire nation."
    Perrone had responded to the protest after a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus driver complained protesters were blocking access to a bus stop, Holderness said.
    "We've dealt with a number of protests in the city and we're certainly never happy when one of them doesn't go well," Holderness said. "We don't want our protests to end with an altercation."
    Perrone used his own discretion and decided not to pursue Navickas and finish the arrest, Holderness said. 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.
    Holderness said he would like to meet with the organizers of the anti-expansion protest, including Navickas.
    "We'd like to sit down with the organizers "… just to make sure something like this doesn't happen again," Holderness said. "I've spoken with Eric plenty of times in the past "… and I'm always happy to do that."
    Navickas plans to continue protesting the expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area, but said he would be more than happy to sit down with Holderness.
    Another protest against the ski area expansion is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 19 in front of the U.S. Forest Service building on Washington Street in Ashland, Navickas said. Protesters plan to stage the protest in front of the building and then march down Washington Street to its intersection with Ashland Street, while using the sidewalk, he said.
    Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.
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