Protesters Occupy Tree Outside Wheeler Hall

Photo: Two protesters going by Jahlandin and Fresh hung a banner outside Wheeler Hall yesterday, but said they would descend soon.
Tollef Biggs/Photo
Two protesters going by Jahlandin and Fresh hung a banner outside Wheeler Hall yesterday, but said they would descend soon.

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Two masked people climbed into a tree outside Wheeler Hall early yesterday morning, hanging a large banner calling for the democratization of the UC Board of Regents.

The two people, one of whom identified himself as a UC Berkeley alumnus, said they climbed into the tree around midnight, posting a large banner condemning the campus' deal with energy firm BP and pushing the campus to release American Indian remains, among other demands.

"We don't want a UC Berkeley where free speech is history," said one of the individuals, who said he goes by Fresh. "We'd like to see a rise in student activism. It's in the face of repression that students make change."

UCPD was first notified of the tree-climb at around 9:15 a.m., said UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, who noted that the two people were trespassing on campus property.

He added that UCPD initially thought the tree-climb incident outside Wheeler Hall was related to the tree-sit protest at the oak grove near Memorial Stadium.

"I think that's a natural conclusion," Celaya said. "People climb trees for a variety of reasons, but I think it's safe to say that ... the first thought is that it's associated with the oak trees."

But Fresh said yesterday's action was not, and should not be, considered a tree-sit, and has no direct relation with the Memorial Stadium protest, though he said he did agree with the actions of protesters there.

"We support the tree-sit," Fresh said. "We need to stop criminalizing protests."

Some students passing by the tree said the banner was ineffective in getting a clear message across, but also said the protesters were not being disruptive.

"I'm not really sure what they're doing," said sophomore Tara Makker. "You can't really tell what their position or what their cause is by looking at the sign."

The two people in the tree, who said the action is not affiliated with any organization, said they were planning on leaving the tree yesterday but did not cite a specific time.

As of 7:30 p.m., there was at least one person still occupying the tree outside Wheeler Hall.

If the protest is prolonged, UCPD will respond on a moment-by-moment basis similar to how the tree-sit protest near Memorial Stadium is being handled, Celaya said.


Vincent Quan is the assistant university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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