Court Order Sought for Removal of Tree-Sitters

Contact Angelica Dongallo at [email protected]





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In response to what they say are unsafe conditions, university officials will seek a restraining order in court tomorrow that would expel the protesters stationed in the oak trees next to Memorial Stadium.

Fire hazards, falling containers of excrement and the increase of structures in the trees led the university to request the injunction against the protesters in Alameda County Superior Court, said Dan Mogulof, executive director of public affairs for the campus.

The tree-sitters have inhabited the oaks in shifts since December in opposition to a proposed athletic center that would require the removal of 26 trees.

“We don’t have a problem with the protest,” Mogulof said. “What we have a problem with is what’s become a small village in the trees.”

Mogulof said the protesters use at least two propane tanks in the trees for cooking, including one in a cedar tree whose oils are flammable.

One propane tank in a tree was visible from the ground yesterday.

While protest coordinator Zachary RunningWolf denied the use of tanks in the trees, four tree-sitters acknowledged cooking with them in their shelters.

“We don’t know what the issue with the propane is. If it’s about safety, we’re willing to hear it and align ourselves accordingly,” said a tree-sitter who goes by the name Stoic.

In addition to concerns over propane, Mogulof said there has also been an increase in the number of excrement-filled containers that have fallen out of the trees. The number of structures in the trees has also increased from four to 12, he said.

A few bottles filled with urine littered the grove floor yesterday, and protesters say there are nine shelters in the trees.

RunningWolf said a university attorney and a UCPD officer came to the grove yesterday and today to inform the tree-sitters of the hearing, originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Oakland but rescheduled for Wednesday in Fremont.

A court clerk called the university’s attorneys Tuesday morning to announce the change, said Gordon Kaupp, an attorney at the law firm representing the protesters.

Mogulof said the injunction is not related to the Sept. 19 court date at which three lawsuits over proposed construction near the stadium will be heard. The city of Berkeley, California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association have raised concerns about the removal of the oak grove, seismic safety and traffic congestion.

“This is not about a change in our approach, but we’re hoping that a judge will add some weight to our call and our appeal to the people in the trees to follow the law and act considerately toward the people around them,” Mogulof said.

RunningWolf, however, said he thinks the university’s goal is to quickly remove the tree-sitters.

“I feel that the university is in a really desperate spot, because no matter what happens (in court), both sides are going to appeal,” RunningWolf said.

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