8/29/2014

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Protesters hanging by ropes from Oregon Capitol arrested

Protesters hanging by ropes from Oregon Capitol arrested

SALEM, Ore. -- Five people were arrested Thursday following a protest at the Oregon State Capitol that involved two of them hanging by ropes from the top of the building.

The protesters apparently gained access to the roof by posing as tourists and taking a capitol tour.

Oregon State Police troopers received a report at about 10:15 a.m. that two protesters were hanging by ropes lowered from the exterior's top level. Police let them hang there for nearly two hours and it was unclear how they got down.

The protesters were protesting clear cutting of the Elliott State Forest and wanted to send a message to Gov. John Kitzhaber. A sign was hung on the capitol that read: "Kitzhaber's legacy: privatizing the Elliott -- Clearcutting for profit."

Jason Gonzalez, a spokesman for the protest group involved, Cascadia Forest Defenders, said the main purpose was getting their point out there.

"We come out to get a message across and often times the most effective ways of doing that involve going to jail," Gonzalez said.

When the five protesters took the tour, several of them distracted the tour guide and a couple others set up rappelling equipment and went over the rotunda, said Kevin Hayden, head of tours for the Oregon State Capitol.

Hayden said tour guides only receive training on providing history to tourists.

"They don't get training on threat identification and things like that, so it's up to us to make sure that we can better make it safe for them," he said.

My midday, the roped protesters and three others who helped with the rappelling were arrested, police said. The sign was removed.

The suspects were identified as Benjamin Jones, 22, of Eugene; Erin M. Grady, 26, of Eugene; Robert Oliver, 21, of Coos Bay; Isabel I. Brooks, 21, of Portland; and Peter B. Garcia, 35, of Eugene.

They were arrested on suspicion of second-degree disorderly conduct and second-degree criminal trespass. All of the suspects, with the exception of Garcia, were also charged with recklessly endangering another person.

The main entrance to the capitol was reopened at about noon, but tours were canceled for the rest of the day and will likely be canceled again Friday.

Next week is the last week of capitol tours for the season; there's a good chance those tours will be canceled until next spring.

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