Police Remove Protesters' Belongings from Trees

UPDATE 3: First posted on Feb. 19 at 8:05 a.m.

Photo: An arborist cuts down tree-sitters' belongings and traverse lines on Tuesday morning.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
An arborist cuts down tree-sitters' belongings and traverse lines on Tuesday morning.

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Photo: A former Cal student who graduated in 2007 going by Mohammed Smith (foreground) and Berkeley Copwatch member Russell Bates watch from outside the fence surrounding the Oak Grove as the arborist cuts down the tree-sitters' possessions.   

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In what they said was an effort to clean up the area, police officials began removing some of the tree-sitters' belongings from the Oak Grove near Memorial Stadium early this morning.

At 6 a.m., an arborist who was contracted by the campus climbed into the trees and began removing equipment left in the trees by protesters.

Campus and police officials said there were currently no plans to remove the tree sitters. Protesters have been living in the oak grove for over a year in opposition to the campus' plans to build an athletic training facility on the site.

In a press conference, UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya said the campus decided this morning was an appropriate time to remove some of the tree-sitters' supplies because there were currently only 4 to 5 tree sitters in the grove; a small amount in comparison to other times.

"It was a day of opportunity given the number of people in the trees," he said.

Celaya said the arborist was instructed to remove items that could fall from the trees as well as ropes that the tree sitters were using to climb from tree to tree and hold supplies and waste.

The arborist, who police declined to identify, climbed at least two trees in the grove and cut ropes that were holding their belongings and let them fall to the ground.

As 4 to 5 tree sitters watched from a nearby tree, the arborist also removed some tarps and platforms that the tree sitters used as shelter.

At one point the arborist kicked a bucket filled with human waste from a tree. The bucket burst when it fell to ground, filling the area with a putrid smell.

Tree-sit supporters said the campus chose to remove the supplies this morning because the tree-sitters would not have shelter in today's rain.

"What the UCPD did today was to cut down traverse lines that the tree-sitters use to get food and platforms (they) use to sleep," said UC Berkeley senior Matthew Taylor, a founding member of Free Speech Free Trees Student Coalition.

A judge is expected to rule on a lawsuit brought by three parties-the city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hills Association-by mid-April.

Campus officials have said they plan to let the tree-sitters stay in the trees until that ruling.


Will Kane is the assistant city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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