ASHLAND — Former Ashland City Councilman Eric Navickas pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court stemming from his conduct during a protest June 28 in the Plaza against expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.
Navickas entered not guilty pleas to two counts of interfering with police and one count of disorderly conduct.
The charges allege that Navickas encouraged marchers to walk in the street without a proper permit, and resisted arrest by an Ashland police officer during the march. A video posted on YouTube appears to show Navickas resisting Ashland police officer John Perrone's attempt to arrest him.
Navickas is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in Circuit Court.
Navickas declined to comment on his court case, but said late Tuesday, "I believe the U.S. Constitution protects the U.S. citizens' right to assembly. I don't think a person should have to be punished for their response to unnecessary police behavior."
Responding to the protest after police received a complaint from a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus driver, 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, Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said. The protesters ignored several police warnings to return to the sidewalk and Navickas encouraged protesters to remain in the street, he said.
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.
The Jackson County District Attorney's Office reviewed eyewitness reports, video of the incident and numerous police reports submitted by Ashland police before filing the charges against Navickas.
Navickas and about 60 others staged another protest Tuesday afternoon against the ski area expansion in front of the U.S. Forest Service building on Washington Street in Ashland.
Reach Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.