A Juneau man staging a solo protest of fisheries bycatch policies was arrested in front of the Alaska State Capitol on Monday morning after disrupting a committee hearing inside and then engaging in a fight inside the State Office Building, according to police and security officers.
Eric Osuch, 23, was banned from the Capitol for one year after disrupting a Senate Finance Committee meeting at about 9:30 a.m., shouting to at least one lawmaker on the committee who’s a target of his ire. Osuch was handcuffed and detailed by two security officers in the entryway of the Capitol until a Juneau Police Department officer arrived to formally serve him with the notice banning him from returning, although Osuch said he planned to return for a 2 p.m. meeting scheduled with a legislator regardless of the order.
But he never got that chance, as about an hour later he was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass after a “fight in the sky bridge of the State Office Building,” said Lt. Krag Campbell of the Juneau Police Department. The arrest occurred shortly after when two officers saw him on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol.
Osuch shouted objections and pleas for his cause as police handcuffed him and led him to a patrol vehicle, using modest force as he resisted and tried to offer documents to an observing journalist.
While protests and other gatherings are frequent at the Capitol during the legislative session, police and legislative officials said disturbances resulting in bans or arrests are rare.
“The last time an individual was issued a trespass notice from the building was in 2020 and the time before that was in 2016, both for a two-year period,” Jessica Geary, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, wrote in an e-mail. “It does not happen very often, but JPD was involved in each instance.”
Osuch, while being detailed after his first disruption, told security and other people within earshot he was fired earlier that morning from his job at the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Inc.’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery for discussing ethics because he believes the “hatcheries system is corrupt.” He staged a similar solo protest in front of the Capitol last week and at the Baranof Hotel later that day where a legislative reception was being hosted by Trident Seafoods.
He claims Alaska Natives in particular are losing salmon and other subsistence species due to commercial trawlers’ bycatch, which refers to unintentionally harvested species that cannot be sold or kept due to regulations or demand.
A week-long meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in early April, during which hundreds of Alaskans testified, resulted in some stakeholders expressing dissatisfaction with the outcome. A press release issued last Tuesday by SalmonState, a Juneau-based nonprofit, stated the council “failed to meaningfully address the issue of the pollock trawl fleet’s bycatch of chum salmon, king salmon, herring, halibut, snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, and many other species.”