Opinions Differ on Wheeler Hall Protest

Photo: Freshman Emily Johnson and two students who wished not to be identified watch the tree sitter protesting outside of Wheeler Hall.
Michael Kang/Photo
Freshman Emily Johnson and two students who wished not to be identified watch the tree sitter protesting outside of Wheeler Hall.

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As seniors Caitlin Wilson and Lauren Magistro chatted outside Wheeler Hall yesterday afternoon, their minds were focused on relaxing after class-not on the protest in the tree 20 feet away.

A protester, who identified himself as Fresh, climbed into a tree near Wheeler Hall more than a week ago, calling for the democratization of the UC Board of Regents, opposing the campus' deal with BP and citing other demands.

Some members of the campus community said the demonstration is not unusual for Berkeley, as tree-sitters also reside in the oak grove near Memorial Stadium.

"What are they protesting?" Wilson asked. "My friend just asked me if they just spilled over here because they ran out of room (at the oak grove)."

Sophomore Sarah Price said she barely noticed the demonstration.

"It doesn't surprise me that much-it's Berkeley, this kind of stuff happens a lot," she said.

On Tuesday, police barricaded the tree to prevent individuals from providing supplies to the protester, said UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya. Last Thursday, a UC Berkeley student was arrested for resisting police orders after she allegedly threw a water bottle to the protester.

"The campus community is tired of the antics of these tree protesters," Celaya said. "They're draining resources away from important matters the police department should be focusing on."

Senior Luke Iantorno said he found the protesters shouting in front of the site distracting and rude.

"They're ridiculing students rather than trying to educate them," said Iantorno, who passes by the area on his way to class at least three times a day.

Some visitors new to the campus said the protest outside Wheeler Hall, along with the Memorial Stadium tree-sit, fits into UC Berkeley's activist reputation.

English professor Scott Saul, who held office hours on the top floor of Wheeler Hall yesterday, said the protest impressed a visitng graduate student candidate.

"She was thrilled to see people taking politics seriously," he said.

Among the protest's audience yesterday were 25 middle school students from Paris on the second day of a two-week tour through the Bay Area.

"It's cool to do that to protect trees," said Emma Prevost, 14, who attends the Notre Dame de Sion. "It's good, weird. Everybody here seems ... original."


Stephanie M. Lee covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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