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Friday, June 20, 2008

Berkeley Tree-Sitters Still Aloft After Major Raid

June 18, 2008

Oak Grove Supporters Prevail in Court, Stopping UCB’s Construction Plans

Two-Day Standoff Between Tree-Sitters and Massive Police Presence

Leaves Most Tree-Sitter Still Aloft

Berkeley, CA-After two tense days of a highly dramatic standoff
between University of California (UCB) police and supporters of the
oak grove occupied by tree-sitters for 18 months that UCB wants to
cut down to make way for a sports facility, the plaintiffs for the
oaks prevailed in a complicated and long-litigated court case.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued her ruling
shortly after 6 pm Wednesday, June 18, nine months after the trial
and a year and a half after the lawsuits were filed. The large crowd
of oaks supporters, holding vigil continuously since dawn Tuesday,
awaiting the court’s decision, received the news jubilantly. About
ten tree-sitters remain in their perches despite UCB police’s
attempts to extract them with heavy equipment and contract climbers.

At issue in the lawsuit—three separate lawsuits ultimately joined—is
whether the proposed project, a sports training facility, is an
adjunct structure to the existing football stadium, which remains far
out of compliance with earthquake safety standards while straddling
the Hayward fault, and whether the planning documents written for the
proposed construction complies with the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA). The lawsuits challenging the University’s planned
construction were filed in December, 2006. A preliminary injunction
granted by Judge Miller in February, 2007, constraining UCB from
making any physical alterations on the project site (the oak grove)
including cutting of trees, remains in place. Petitioners include
the City of Berkeley, Panoramic Hills Association, the California
Oaks Foundation, Save the Oaks, and a number of individuals. This
ruling sends the University back to the drawing board on their
project, or into appeals, but unable to proceed forward immediately,
which is clearly what they intended to do.

The Alquist-Priolo Act of 1972 forbids alterations on an existing
project if the value of those alterations exceeds 50% of the existing
project (the UCB stadium) The sports training facility was found to
constitute an alteration of the existing stadium project . The
stadium, in the words of plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Volker “is
decrepit.” UCB claimed Alquist-Priolo did not apply to them, and the
court rejected that.

Volker declared, “This is a great day for the environment. The
University’s petty provocations are no match for the force of law.
But for the tree-sitters and the judge’s courageous [injunction]
ruling months ago, these oaks would not be standing.”

While the outcome was a mixed bag in that both sides won or lost on
various causes of action, a plaintiff prevailing on any decisive
issue is named as the prevailing party. But the “acid test”,
explains Volker, is the appointment of attorneys to craft a writ of
mandate, and that job was placed in the petitioner’s hands, which
they must submit by June 24. Moreover, it is “a day of reckoning”
for the University, says Volker, because the ruling means UCB is not
above the law.

As tree-sit supporters and oaks supporters waited for the judge’s
decision, UCB police brought in cherry-picker trucks, a crew of
contract arborist tree-climbers, and a giant construction crane
estimated to be 140 feet tall, suspending a 4-person basket from a
long cable. Armed with this machinery, as dozens of UC police lined
the grove standing guard at the double chain-link fence topped with
barbed wire put in place to prevent food and water deliveries to the
tree-sitters, the contract climbers attempted numerous times
throughout Tuesday and Wednesday to approach tree-sitters high in
the branches. On Tuesday, nearly all the food, water, platforms and
gear were cut by UCB contractors and dropped to the ground. Oak
supporters implored the arborists through bullhorns to not engage in
the reckless and patently life-threatening removal of the tree-
sitters. They succeeded in only bringing one female tree-sitter down
to waiting handcuffs on Tuesday. Several others in the crowd were
arrested on Wednesday.

Crews also revved up chainsaws at least five times on Wednesday,
sending large branches crashing to the ground, “absolutely in
violation of the court’s injunction,” say attorneys. The tree-
sitters remain in the trees as all sides analyze the court’s ruling.


Karen Pickett
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters

2530 San Pablo Ave.
Berkeley, California 94702


Rose said...

How many comments do you NOT post?

XANTAR!!!!! said...

We post all comments, less the poster has a "potty mouth" or unintelligible ramblings. Try again, Rose:)

Emmagirl said...

I went to view the tree sitters this past weekend- September 7 and 8th 2008.
I am confused on the cause you are fighting for, could you enlighten me?
It was quite confusing to watch. The UCPD Captain went up into the trees to talk to the tree sitters. I heard a comment made- It's not about the trees, it was never about the trees."
What I am confused with is this:
The protestors or "tree sitters" are TRESPASSING.. bottom line. So the UCPD has EVERY right to cut off food and water supply. I believe it should have been done months ago. It is fine to believe in a cause and fight for it, but fight for it in a legal way like everyone else.
I also heard the tree sitters spokesperson say " just because you don't believe in our cause, doesn't mean you should take away all our food and water, starving them is not right!"
Well let me ask you, when someone doesn't have money to buy food, they can't just go to a university and ask for food. They have to suck it up, work and find a way to support themselves.
Anyway- The other reason that tree sitters do not want to cut the trees down- an ancient Indian burial ground or ww1 memorial. Isn't there a plaque or something in the stadium that says it's dedicated to the WW1 vets?
Cal brings in so many people to the city of Berkeley, I do not understand WHY they are fighting it! Berkeley wouldn't have half as much attraction if it wasn't for Cal.
My final Question- I heard the most disrespectful comment from a guy who wants to be nominated to run for mayor-
Running Wolf- He yelled to the UCPD Captain, Thanks for the negotiations..... F**K YOU! How could anyone in their right mind wish to be nominated for Mayor of a city, when they can not even treat another authoritative figure with respect!
I think someone forgot their manners and what their Momma taught them!
If you have any insight to any of my questions I would really love to hear the answers!

Jeff Muskrat said...

Thank you Emmagirl. The "cause" for Berkeley is to protect Greenspace. It is getting harder to find these areas in the city. The underlying cause is to honor both Native Americans and WWI Vets by protecting sacred space. I cannot speak for everyone involved with the Oaks campaign so I'm not sure why someone would say it was never about the trees.

Yes, the protestors ARE tresspassing. That is the action. It is a form of dissent protected by freedom of speech. This was occurring as the UC was being challenged in court, the trees would have been cut before the verdict if the sitters were not up there. Sometimes, action needs to be taken immediately.

The UCPD has every right not to feed them. However, I do not feel that the UC, a semi-public(quasi-public) institution, has the right to prevent food from the community(usually the grannies) from going up into the trees. No one ever expected the UC to buy the sitters food. I also feel that the UCPD should be less violent towards supporters on the ground, such as the grannies who were pummeled weekly to the ground by the "blue meanies".

It is hard for someone outside of the action/situation to understand why the protestors(and police) are acting the way they are. The vibe of the police and protestors has been affected by violence and aggression, from the UCPD as well as a select few protestors. These violent protestors are not a part of the Oaks action, beleieve it or not, spies and disruptors were used by the UC to give the Oaks campaign a negative public image. This is apparent to any long-time protestor, and if you look at the campaign from the beginning, you can see how a peaceful, non-violent and community supported action can quite literally go down the tubes.

Did you know:
-The City of Berkeley, along with the Panoramic Hills Assoc. and the Oaks Campaign, legally opposed the training center.
-The training center is actually a retrofit for an aging stadium(WWI Memorial Stadium). The UC's plan is to sink the center into the earth in front of the stadium, which happened to be the location of the WWI Memorial Oak Grove. The stadium and the Oak grove are over the active Hayward faultline. I personally saw the faultline underground, and I wouldn't attend any future Cal games at that location, if I were you. I feel the karma involved from the UC's treatment of the protestors opens the door for a big quake, possibly(but hopefully not) during a game in the near future. Watch for it...

-The UC was hiding it's intentions of putting a "bandaid" on the stadium by saying that was the only feasible location for the training center. This made the UC look dishonest, because THEY ARE! The training center was a retrofit from the beginning, there are multiple locations available to accomodate the athletes. Can't they walk a few more feet?
-The City council of Berkeley was a major supporter of the acion. The Berkeley Police(not the UCPD) were also supportive of us.

Emma, why do you think that the sitters and protestors didn't have money, or jobs, or something else to do? Many were/are students of UC Berkeley. I sat with them for more than a week. The vibe in the trees was peaceful and calm as we watched the craziness unfold on the ground. Yes, there are a considerable amount of houseless people on the ground, many from People's Park. The Oaks supporters helped them by giving them food. Eventually, the ground became a houseless camp. I am not opposed to the houseless, and I feel that many of the houseless helped the Oaks. I also feel that was the downfall of the campaign in which the mentally unstable houseless gave the Oak's campaign a bad public image.

The so called "unstable" portion of the ground camp I feel was put in place there by the campus to negatively affect the campaign's public image. The "unstable" element also created issues for organizers who were having enough trouble from the UCPD. I personally watched members of the unstable element converse with UCPD officers, and return to the ground camp to start a fight. It is hard for organizers to ask someone to leave an action that is opposing heirarchy and oppression. Usually, we would just try to "vibe" them out. Most people would have left after the larger group distanced themselves from them, the "unstable" element. Remember, these disruptors were there to cause problems, and the UCPD would watch and laugh as peaceful, non-violent protestors were verbally and physically attacked by them. The UCPD ignored them, but tackled us if we got too close to the fence.

I don't expect you to agree with our campaign, you saw the worst part of it, after the Oaks were cut, the spirit of the organizers was broken(ie. Running Wolf), and comunity support waned as the Oaks Campaign's image was tarnished by disruptors and unstable people. But I hope you understand that our convictions were strong and that it was our right to stand up to the UC, an institution that has historically made it's name from killing others(UC Berkeley made "the bomb" and is still very active in military weapons development, especially nuclear based weapons.)

I hope that if you are compelled to stand up for what you believe in, that you will learn a lesson from the Oaks. If a child in the street is about to get nailed by a car, will you wait for the parents or cops to act, or will you rise up and act with your heart? Sometimes we cannot depend on the system to protect our interests. Sometimes, we need to take matters into our own hands proactively, not reactively. Peacefully and non-violently.