Berkeley tree sitter standoff ends

September 10, 2008 8:37:36 AM PDT
There was one final clash between University Police and campus tree lovers in Berkeley on Tuesday. It was a dramatic ending to a 22-month saga that played out at the top of a U.C. redwood tree this afternoon.

The strategy was to build a tower around the tree to eventually reach the protesters and bring them down safely.

This was the ending the university had hoped for -- relatively peaceful with just a few arrests. In the mean time, the trees that the protesters devoted so much time for are gone, but the protesters are still claiming at least a partial victory.

"We love you all, we love the community. We're glad to have been able to be of service," said "Huck" a protester.

With that, a Berkeley tree-sitter sitter named "Huck" announced via two-way radio from his aerial perch that he and his companions would give up their protest peacefully.

It came on day 648 of a standoff with U.C. Berkeley that left just four protestors clinging to a lone redwood, 80 feet above the ground.

The tree-sitters surrendered only after workers in protective suits began erecting a huge scaffold around the tree at 9:30 a.m. By early afternoon, the platform had nearly reached the protestors.

While workers cut away the remaining branches near the top, University Police Chief Victoria Harrison appeared to negotiate with the protesters from a basket, hooked to a huge crane.

"As they saw the scaffolding coming up, we had the officers there, their mood changed," said Victoria Harrison, UC Berkeley Police Chief.

"The University of California will create a land use committee," said "Huck."

The tree sitters claim their decision to climb down on their own was prompted by a deal they made with the university to form a committee that would give community members a voice in future land use decisions, but U.C. Berkeley Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom says no firm agreement was reached.

"There was no commitment to this campus community committee on land use," said Brostrom.

By 1:30 p.m., the protestors named "Huck," "Mondo," "Shem" and "Mystery Man" surrendered peacefully. One by one, they were handcuffed and escorted down an eight-floor-stairway by police to the cheers and tears of their supporters below.

By 4:45 p.m., the tree that had been their home for so many months. The one that had come to symbolize their nearly two year effort was gone.

A pile of wood is all that's left of the redwood tree that was the center of so much controversy. The university told ABC7, as they continue to remove the trees and prepare the ground for constructions, they will have a team of archaeologists on standby in case any artifacts are found.

As for the four protesters, they were transported to the Santa Rita Jail with misdemeanor charges of trespassing, and violating a court order. For two of the tree sitters, bail has been set at $12,000 and for the remaining two, the bail may be a bit higher because of outstanding warrants.

After a 647 day, tree sitting protest there was still a lot of commotion on the ground. The university promised a safe and certain ending to this long protest.

The crowd and its temper seemed to grow in scale with that of the scaffold rising to the top of the redwood, but for the first time in a long time tree sitting protesters found themselves outnumbered by U.C. staff and students who said they were never sympathetic to begin with.

In the end, protesters say they succeeded because they gained a voice. The university says they have not put anything in writing, but says they will listen to the community on future building projects.

Head Football coach Jeff Tedford considers this day a success. His recruiting efforts have been hampered by an aging athletic facility and finally he sees progress in the building of the new athletic training center.

The standoff up in the trees began Big Game Weekend, two years ago on December 1, 2006. The university says since then, it has spent more than $700,000 on extra security.

The two-year delay has increased the cost of the construction project a whopping $20 million. The new sports training complex will be completely funded by private donations.

A crowd of several hundred turned out to watch the end of the protest and some scuffled with officers. In addition to the four tree sitters that were arrested, there were five arrests on the ground for civil disobedience and blocking a roadway.

Final four tree sitters arrested:
Michael Schuck, 26, also known as "Shem" has five warrants worth $21,777 and is charged with violation of court orders, trespassing and logging.

The following three men face misdemeanor charges of trespassing and violation of a court order. Each has a bail set of $11,778.
Armando Resendez, 20, also known as "Mondo."
Ernesto Pena, 18
Raul Colocho, 27, also known as "Huck."

Brief timeline of tree sitter protest:

  • December 1, 2006: Protesters took residence in the trees
  • August 2007: Eight people were in the trees when the university built a fence around the grove to prevent any protesters who came down from the trees, from going back up.
  • June 2008: The university cut the tree sitters' food supply lines and removed many of their platforms.
  • July 2008: Four tree sitters who came down were arrested.
  • Friday, September 5, 2008: the university began removing the 42 trees in the grove.
  • Tuesday, September 9, 2008: The last four remaining tree sitters came down from their tree and were arrested. The remaining tree was cut down.


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