Atascadero woman attacks Obama protesters

July 9, 2014
Rosemary Bem

Rosemarie Bem


Claiming she was defending President Barack Obama from an unwarranted attack, an Atascadero woman pepper sprayed a group of peaceful protestors on Monday afternoon. Atascadero police then charged the woman with two counts of battery.

During the late afternoon, a group of five protesters were holding a demonstration at the Highway 101 overpass on Curbaril Avenue. The demonstrators were holding a sign calling for the impeachment of Obama.

At about 5 p.m., Rosemarie Bem, 67, pulled up beside the protesters in her car, doused demonstrators with pepper spray and then fled the scene, witnesses said. Even though police charged Bem with battery, she defends her actions.

“I’m a veteran, and I was protecting the president from what I perceived as an unwarranted attack,” Bem said when contacted by CalCoastNews. She did not offer any further explanation.

Atascadero Police Sergeant Jason Carr said the demonstrators did nothing to provoke the attack.

“The police report indicates that it was a peaceful protest,” Carr said. “They were merely holding signs on the freeway overpass. There were no words that were exchanged.”

Bem’s pepper spray hit two of the demonstrators, causing them burning and redness, police said. At the scene, paramedics washed chemicals off the victims’ skin.

Fred Starbuck, who was sprayed in the face and eyes, said the pepper spray also hit a third member of the group.

“She got me dead center,” Starbuck said. “I find it sad that someone would feel it’s okay to attack individuals because they disagree with your point of view.”

Shortly after the incident, officers located Bem. She then admitted to pepper spraying the protesters, Carr said.

Officers cited Bem for battery and battery with a chemical agent, and then released her.


Oh, for Pete’s sake. I might agree with some of your Rush Limbaugh dittoheads, but so you can open carry? Where do you think you live? Wait, I hear Wyatt Earp is coming to clean up this mess.

See y’all on Sunday in Church.


Let’s remember what this is about.

A woman who expressed unhappiness and seemingly anger with a few protestors decided to hit them with pepper spray… which was designed and approved for self defense only. This was clearly not in self defense.

The penalties are significant… up top $1000 and/or 1-3 years in prison. Her lack of remorse is disquieting.

Like other hate crimes, political violence should carry enhancements.


Just wondering if I am allowed to shoot somebody who is about to spray me with pepper spray since I’m allergic to it and it will immediately close my asophagus. Seems to me that would be a threat to my life and a legal act of self defense.

Kevin Rice

I believe a swollen shut esophagus would only lead to hunger.

Kevin Rice

So many thumbs down… I thought people than that know where the esophagus is (and is not).


How would you know if you were alergic to pepper spray unless someone already used it on you? Give us a break.


The reason I know is because I was hiking with a group when somebody decided to spray some pepper spray along the trail to keep the bears away. The wind blew a little bit at me and when I breathed it in, it immediately closed my throat and I couldn’t breath. People thought I was choking to death and tried the Heimlich maneuver etc all to no avail because it was the pepper spray that I was allergic to. Eventually I was able to get some breath and was taken to the hospital. I was warned that with such a small amount having caused that kind of a reaction that a larger dose would be fatal without “immediate” medical care. I was given an epinephrin pen that has since expired and since I have never considered being sprayed, I don’t carry one.

That is how I know……..


Left or right, right or left or simply don’t give a $&!%, America seems to think the only way to resolve issues is resort to some kind of violence. Why is this?

Have we no morals, ethics, sense of community, fellowship or the ability to communicate and express ourselves individually?

The very principles of this country were founded on the ability to respect individuality and self expression.

I weep for the future.


I agree. I think that part of the problem is the unfortunate, all-too-human tendency to generalize individuals into groups and then go to battle for or against those groups whether with rhetoric or actual violent action. There isn’t as much difference between most people’s morals and ethics as we are led to believe by those that profit from such conflicts (politicians and media). Words set the tone and those with less stable personalities will sometimes feel justified in acting/reacting with violence because of those words.

By joining in the hatred with nasty labels for individuals rather than criticisms of some specific stance they take or by labeling everyone associated ever so slightly with a group as part of the lunatic fringe within that group, we abandon the ability to convince, learn, compromise or negotiate a reasonable settlement of differences.


It is what our “leaders” have been preaching for decades…hate people who disagree with you. It will start to change when we stop electing people who use fear and hatred to win votes. Stop voting for democrats and republicans.


Fascinating story with even more fascinating, albeit predictable responses… Interesting that so many actually think that impeaching the president actually changes anything, more interesting if they remained silent under the previous administrations numerous crimes…

In a more sane and just world, Obama would join Cheney/Bush, Clinton, Bush #1, Carter, along with the ghosts of Nixon and Reagan, as well as most of their administrations and numerous CEOs on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity…

In reality, Obama is the neoliberal conservative dream who keeps on giving. He is a terrible president for the people of the US and especially for the people of the rest of the world… but for the exact opposite reasons the low informed and easily led astray members of the Tea Baggers and others want him impeached for… On the other hand, for the less than 1% and the ruling corporate elite, Obama has succeeded beyond all expectations expanding upon, as he has, the crimes of his predecessors, as ALL US presidents are wont to do…

Repug vs Dim while the plutocracy laugh all the way to the bank… Vote for the obvious psychopaths Cheney/Bush or the Nobel Peace Laureate Democratic Black president… with the same results in slaughtering innocent men, women and CHILDREN, support of brutal right wing regimes, increasing inequality, etc. etc. etc.

Vote for the Repug or the Dim, perpetuating the illusion of democracy, the illusion of choice where there is none. Welcome to “Inverted Totalitarianism ” 101 where the elite govern without the appearance of doing so…

Corporate fascist USA is performing right on schedule as the most violent and terrorist nation in the world… bar none…

Though it continues to be amusing observing people act as if there is a difference…


Wow what a well written and smug response. I am so above all of you and you are all idiots. Well Snake here is how it works. I don’t think at the end of the day people on either side are jumping up and down at the prospects given us but WE do our best and vote for what we are given. You can take the…………..well don’t vote till they get someone good but how’s that working out??


You had my attention right up to the name calling. I am surprise it took you so long to show your true colors! Not left or right, but your willingness to resort to such childish behavior.




The FASCIST left wing will use whatever means necessary to silence their critics. Be it pepper spray or the IRS, anything is fair game…….


“Fascist left wing”?

Shall we make up a bogus group, such as “murderous right wing,” just because one person, Ted Bundy, was a serial murderer?

Kevin Rice

You mean like “teabaggers” or “vast right wing conspiracy”?


The teabaggers used that moniker themselves…until some clued them in as to the …alternative…meaning of “teabagger”and “transacting.”


Fascist can be from either the right or left.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chavez … from the left

Franco, Pinochet, Torrijos, Samoza …. from the right

They pretty much all end up at the same place, but they can start from anywhere on the political spectrum.

Ben Daho

Fascist? Please explain.

Kevin Rice

Webster: “fascist …any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible suppression of opposition b : any tendency toward or actual exercise of severe autocratic or dictatorial control”

– severely nationalistic policies … check

– regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance … check

– rigid censorship and forcible suppression of opposition … pepper spray, anyone?

Any other questions?


Kevin, for a smart guy you’ve fallen off the right wing cliff. A little pepper spray and your ilk has gone crazy. You have all finally found a tiny foothold in which to bring up fascism, bared your hidden racist feelings and waste your time and breath patting each other on the back with your smug protestations of peaceful protests. More violence is done with the pen than the sword, humans of all stripes are very adept at both.


hotdog deal out the race card again… if you don’t like Obama it is all about race. I know are family use to be split on this now everyone is sick of it and I might add Obama in general. I have not heard one positive comment about Obama in months. Some are irked about Obamacare lies, IRS misdeeds, immigrant mismanagement (which is not mismanagement but rather democratic plan), Bergdahl Rose Garden incident, Benghazi attack, the Syria, Iraqi, Iran, Afghanistan collapse, the costs to the taxpayers of over $42,000,000 for travel alone of the first family, and his constant playing to his base.

I think it is reason to say that most independents are done with this President for real reasons and not the race factor. But go ahead hotdog and keep choking on it!


Racist? Only a liberal uses that as an excuse. If I supported Martin Luther King, Allen West, Herman Cain, or Alan Keys you would come up with a different derogatory term or me, Right? Next if you found out that I did not support Hillary you would include the term sexist, Right. All the while not knowing my race or gender?????


“Man Arrested for Allegedly Pepper Spraying People” headline on KVEC website which is why I listen to KPRL…lol (do they know something we don’t)


There is a lot of noise here about if the banner is legal or not. I would be curious if any of this group is reading this, if they looked into what the laws are before they took to the overpass. My guess is that they did. They seem well organized enough that I bet they did their homework.

Also I have seen them at that overpass off and on for about two years and if against the law there has been ample time for the police to have seen them and site them if not.


Here you go : Case Law …

United States Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit

Brown versus California Department of Transportation No. 02-15385

Under I. Background …paragraph 3:

It is CalTrans stated encroachment permit policy that citizens that wish to display a sihn on a California highway overpass must obtain a permit to do so.

Even then, permits are only available for signs designating turnoffs for special events.

Citizens wishing to display any other messages are prohibited from using the highway overpass to do so.

*** Also, a highway overpass is a ‘non’public’ fora ( it’s purpose being for the smooth flow of traffic ).

This ruling allowed the display of the United States and California state flags,

BUT NOT FOR ANY OTHER MESSAGES, political or otherwise, from California highway overpasses.

The ‘protesters’ are breaking the law, and the police evidently are not doing their job in this circumstance.


And your point is? The woman didn’t spray the “illegal” banner, she sprayed the people who were LEGALLY protesting peacefully.

Are you condoning her vigilante justice approach to “protecting” the President?


You are making a jump in assuming that slowerfaster is condoning her actions. I didn’t see where he did so. He just responded to a question about the legality of banners on overpasses — somewhat incorrectly as Kevin Rice has since pointed out.

Kevin Rice

It is entirely mistaken to apply the above case to persons displaying political signs. The case above does not speak to the issue, for a number of reasons.

First, the correct citation is Brown v California Department of Transportation (2003), 321 F.3d 1217.

While the case my appear to control whether an individual can “display a banner” (as in hold), it does not. The dispute at bar was in regards to hanging/affixing banners to overpasses, not holding banners in one’s hands.

Furthermore, the Court did not rule that banners could not be hung on overpasses.

The Court did rule that the Cal-Trans policy of not removing American flags, but removing all other banners constituted impermissible, non-neutral viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

An agency, such as Cal-Trans may adopt policies restricting speech, but only if those policies are viewpoint-neutral. Leaving American flags, but removing other speech (such as the anti-war banners of plaintiff Cassandra Brown) violates the Constitution.

What remains is not an issue of “legality”. Following the 9th Circuit’s decision, Cal-Trans was forced to modify their policy to be viewpoint-neutral. Cal-Trans accomplished that by deciding to remove all sign and banners, including flags, that are attached to overpasses and highway structures.

Neither the Cal-Trans policy, nor the 9th Circuit decision apply to persons actively displaying signs.


Thanks AGAIN Slow for making my point. The POLICE are not doing their job. It is THEIR job to enforce. Not You or Ms. Bem or myself.


On that we agree.

To further extrapolate …it is also why highway overpasses are such an inappropriate place for these demonstrations; and I don’t care by who.

It makes possible a ripe scenario for altercations like this or more serious, thus a public safety concern.

Let these kooks or anybody else with a particular axe to grind display their signs and banners at City Hall, the Courthouse, a ‘free-speech’ zone …wherever it can be cordoned off and controlled; as long as the group or person is not advocating violence.

Frankly, I would like to see civil coverage of these Impeach freaks, because then more reasonable people will be able to recognize how goofy and fringe they are.


Well slow I do like your comment about take it down to city hall. Not a bad idea. It’s to bad that this kind of back and forth and coming to an agreeable solution is what has been lost in this country. I know neither of us usually see eye to eye but I do like to get to the point of seeing if their is something that can work.


Good for me.

I am reminded of the time when I lived in a community where the KKK was coming to town to ‘protest’.

Curious, since the makeup of the locale was over 90% white/caucasian with a minority hispanic group.

Why were the KKK doing this ? Obviously, attention and publicity…but maybe to recruit.

I was part of an alternative event…not a counter-demonstration, where we organized a softball game and cookout between the local Democrats and Republicans; to happen at the same time the KKK was doing their idiocy, and at a different place.

We had everyone keep signs or other provocative messages away.

After every inning, team captains had to choose/trade a player from the opposing squad. Pretty soon, the teams were more or less integrated.

Everyone had fun, no one was hurt, and many new friendships were made.

On top of that, our event got more press than the KKK clowns.


The Klan came to my home town too (scroll down for the image). protestant(owners) VS catholic(labor) more or less, anti emigrant


Repub. and Dem. baseball game………..that’s pretty cool.

We use to be a nation (from my reading of history) up until about the sixties, that we had two parties but we could at least talk and compromise. Now we all just scream and yell and dig in our feet. The result has been a country that has been spinning out of control. I wish we could get back to where we can discuss and talk more and try and see where the other guy is coming from. That is why even down here at the small level, I like to engage in conversation with yourself and others here that I disagree with. Not to be confrontational but to see if I am missing something or not understanding something. Sometimes in doing that we find we aren’t as far apart as it seems and maybe people can find solutions.


slowerfaster, wonderful that you put together the Dems and Repubs in a softball game. I’m one of the ‘victim” in the pepper spray incident and I feel that most all citizens have SO much more in COMMON than those that would like to divide us would like to make us think. If we could start with our COMMON GROUND and build from there I believe we would be much better off

. Let’s start with COMMON GROUND not COMPROMISE. Wa-du-yu-think?


You are not correct about what the ruling means. Kevin is spot on, the ruling in no way affects the exercise of free speech, which holding a sign on public property is just that.


This far into the game and slowerfaster still has no clue about Obama, do we really expect him to grasp something slightly difficult like a case ruling?


Congrats, now we know the law on attaching a sihn (sic) to an overpass; would you do us a favor and research the law on “holding” a sign while on the overpass?


There is a document titled the US CONSTITUTION that protects our Right to Free Speech and Peaceable Assembly in public, such as: A public sidewalk on the overpass. And we have been approached by SLO PD, Atascadero PD, and CHP. All of the contacts with law enforcement except the pepper spray incident was instigated by an anonymous complaint will false allegations. Each time law enforcement has responded, investigated (as we would expect), and then wished us well as they went to deal with far more important issues threatening our communities.

Kevin Rice

Yes. It’s legal for persons to carry and display banners. Basic free speech.


…for now.


Whether or not the protest was legal cannot, IMO, excuse a physical attack on the protesters.


Is this the same Rosemary Bem that wants all motorcycles banned on private property, who has had serious issues with her neighbors and is before the City Council expressing her right to free speech regarding the banning of motorcycles on private property.

It is only good to have freedom of speech when that freedom protects your viewpoints, right Rosemary???


Bem is a typical anti-Consititution progressive-statist.