Get Fresh

Police attempts yesterday to convince protester "Fresh" to leave his tree were poorly planned and poorly executed.

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Just in time for yesterday's lunchtime crowds, police finally made a move to extract the protester-in-residence from an oak tree in front of Wheeler Hall.

Officers began by cutting down the protester's supplies, then offered him a ladder. "Fresh" responded by detatching the top half of the ladder and tying it to the tree. He refused the handwritten bargain offered by UCPD Chief Victoria Harrison, or to heed the pleas of a student arrested last week for offering him water. Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the deteriorating negotiations, some shouting support and others derision. The whole scene was a mess.

We'll ignore for the moment the fact that "Fresh" probably wouldn't be there at all at this point had the campus not chosen to barricade him in and mount a round-the-clock watch (lest someone sneak him contraband bananas). Even for those who don't consider the UCPD response an overreaction, yesterday's events show the department's lack of planning and resolve in handling stalemates.

If the officers' goal yesterday was to present "Fresh" with a legitimate way out, they should have come prepared with a formalized offer and delivered it before cutting down his supplies-thereby showing both good faith and commitment. Typing it up probably wouldn't have hurt, either-anything to demonstrate that the campus has weighed its options thoroughly and decided on a strategy.

Instead, police seemed unsure of their own objectives. In spending so long clambering around the tree in conversation with the protester, they appeared to cede control of the situation to an unwashed individual hiding behind a bandana, too addled to articulate his two-dozen causes.

Officials continue to insist they will not use force to end the protest, but we suspect the time will come. When it does, the department must bear in mind the lesson of today's botched deal-making: Make a plan and stick to it-whatever it takes.

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