Northampton police arrest man seeking damages over arrests

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Northampton police Department, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2019 8:08:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A man seeking $700,000 in damages from the city and local officials, in part over allegations of retaliatory arrests, has been arrested again by city police.

Eric Matlock, 35, a Northampton man who lives in an RV with his wife, Pamela, was arrested Sunday afternoon while protesting outside Shop Therapy on 189 Main St. He was charged with disorderly conduct, subsequent offense; resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer.

Matlock’s arrest comes less than two weeks after Matlock’s lawyer, Dana Goldblatt, sent a preliminary claim to the mayor’s office.

Matlock was arrested and pepper-sprayed on the steps of City Hall in August 2017, while protesting the removal of his children by the Department of Children and Families. Matlock was acquitted of all charges related to that arrest in a September 2018 Northampton District Court trial.

The presentment of claims refers both to Matlock’s 2017 arrest and subsequent arrests of himself and his wife, which the document claims were for actions that are not crimes, and which the document described as retaliatory.

Matlock’s most recent arrest marks the third time he has been arrested by Northampton Police since he was arrested on the steps of City Hall. Pamela Matlock has also been arrested three times since then.

Matlock said Sunday’s protest was against Shop Therapy’s treatment of homeless people, and against the shop selling culturally insensitive items.

“They’re very anti-homeless,” Matlock said.

Matlock said the police were called to the scene to issue a trespass against an individual from the protest who approached the shop’s door and was refused entry.

After the police arrived, Matlock said he instructed the individual that he didn’t have to give his name, and asked the uniformed officers to identify themselves by name. He also said that he called the police a number of names, including “cowards” and “gang members.”

After the police turned to leave, Matlock, who is of African-American and indigenous descent, said he let out a “victory cry,” after which he was arrested.

“They (police) decided that was disorderly conduct,” said Matlock.

Matlock said he didn’t make any threats against the officers and that he wasn’t acting erratically.

“I was calm, cool and loud,” he said.

Pamela Matlock and the man who approached the doorway of Shop Therapy, who refused to give his full name, both supported Matlock’s version of Sunday’s events.

At Matlock’s arraignment on Monday, Jane Pendergast, chief probation officer for Northampton District Court, presented a different version of events.

Matlock is currently on administrative probation on a charge of resisting arrest, and the probation department sought his detention at the arraignment.

Pendergast said police had been called to Shop Therapy for a report of a man threatening an employee. She said Matlock had screamed at the top of his lungs and prevented any meaningful interaction between the police and the man they were trying to interview. She also said that Matlock screamed racial slurs at one of the officers.

“His behavior was disruptive,” Pendergast said.

She also said that when told he was under arrest, Matlock fled across the street, before dropping to his knees in front of TD Bank.

Matlock was also arraigned Monday on a charge of assault and battery on a person over 60. The charge stems from an incident in July of this year, where Matlock is alleged to have thrown water on Ronny Hazel, the owner of Shop Therapy.

“This is a man who is a store owner, walking down Main Street,” said Pendergast.

Goldblatt asserted that, during Sunday’s incident, her client had been informing someone of his right not to give his name or identification to police, and that this was protected speech.

“The disorderly conduct statute specifically excludes that kind of speech,” she said.

On Matlock resisting arrest, she said that he had fled to the front of TD Bank because it has a camera there.

“Every time he’s arrested he should go to a camera,” she said.

She also said that witnesses have said that her client did not throw water on Hazel.

In rendering her decision, Judge Jacklyn Connly ordered Matlock to be released on his own recognizance on both dockets. Matlock is next scheduled to appear in court on these matters on Sept. 17.

Matlock said he didn’t think his current arrest could hurt his case against the city, but he did say, “I think it’s in retaliation.”

He said he incites people to learn, know and protect their rights, and that he will continue protesting.

“It’s not going to change my behavior,” he said. “I’m not breaking laws. I’m not doing anything illegal.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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