PRINEVILLE, Ore. - About 30 people lined both sides of Highway 126 in downtown Prineville for about two hours Saturday afternoon near the Prineville Police Department, accusing officers of harassing a medical marijuana clinic owner who was arrested, and also alleging brutality in a case that has prompted a $5 million federal lawsuit.
As KTVZ.COM reported Thursday, Ryan Cole, 35, owner of 5C (the Crook County Compassionate Clinic/Club), was arrested late Tuesday afternoon on charges he sold marijuana to a minor and related charges that he strongly denies.
Though police have declined to reveal many details, pending court proceedings, Cole taped an interview with a minor Saturday in which the teen claims he was stopped while walking home and threatened with trespassing charges last year unless he incriminated Cole and said he'd given the minor marijuana for working for him.
The other focus of the protest was a story NewsChannel 21 reported early last week in which Curtis Hooper of Prineville is suing two counties, the city of Prineville and 15 people in federal court for more than $5 million.
Hooper said a then-Jefferson County Jail deputy kicked a steel door shut on his hand, breaking his fingers. A widely circulated video shows a restrained Hooper having his fingers bent back by a Prineville police officer, after being handcuffed, sprayed in the face and Tased.
Authorities have said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
Saturday afternoon, the roughly 30 protesters -- including Cole and Hooper -- held up handmade signs, urged passing motorists to honk their horns -- many of whom did -- and shouted things such as, "It could happen to you!" and "You could be you next!"
Police Chief Eric Bush told KTVZ.COM Thursday that the arrest of Cole had nothing to do with his clinic or that it happened to be on the day votes would be counted on Measure 80, a marijuana legalization measure.
But Cole said he believes it was done to hurt his reputation and embarrass him, and timed so that he could not get a license to sell pot, had the measure passed. He said there's no smoking in the building and no minors are allowed.
"You can't arrest somebody just because you don't like their business," Cole said.
Protest organizer Chance Lee, a medical marijuana card-holder who volunteers at Cole's clinic, said the only interaction with police Saturday was when they urged the demonstrators to stay out of the street and on the sidewalk.
"It was very peaceful," he said, saying he was "pretty distraught" when he was shown the Hooper video.
"I always knew police officers in Prineville weren't right," he said, adding that some people who would have liked to take part in the protest were uncomfortable doing so, fearing repercussions.
"The cops need to tone it down a little bit, just do their job," Lee said.