Tree-Sitters' Supplies Removed From Oaks by University-Hired Arborists

Photo: A tree-sitter known as 'Squirtle' hangs from a tree on Tuesday morning after university-hired arborists took down all the traverse lines and platforms in the oak grove.
Tim Maloney/Photo
A tree-sitter known as 'Squirtle' hangs from a tree on Tuesday morning after university-hired arborists took down all the traverse lines and platforms in the oak grove.

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Photo: An arborist removes equipment hanging from a tree in the grove next to Memorial Stadium as part of the university's effort to end the tree-sit that has lasted more than 560 days.   

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Up to a dozen tree-sitters were woken up early Tuesday morning when UCPD sealed off the grove in what many incorrectly assumed would be the end to the longest urban tree-sit in history.

Forty UCPD officers wearing hard hats stood in the grove area, securing the sidewalk adjacent to the grove so university-hired arborists could remove the supplies of the tree-sitters, who have been in the oaks for more than 560 days.

The tree-sit began on Big Game day in 2006 when perennial mayoral candidate Zachary RunningWolf, along with two other people, ascended the oaks with hammocks and wooden platforms in tow. Various tree-sitters have lived in the grove on and off since that time.

Campus officials said at a press conference Tuesday morning that they were planning to remove supplies, not people, in what they said was an attempt to get the tree-sitters to come down voluntarily.

However, later in the day at about 4:30 p.m., one female tree-sitter known as "Millipede" was extracted from the grove after allegedly biting a university-hired arborist who was trying to remove a line that the sitters used to go from tree to tree. According to Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley's executive director of public affairs, the woman refused to get off the line, grappling with and biting the arm of an arborist.

Mogulof said two arborists, including the bitten one, then grabbed the woman and pulled her into a cherry picker.

Millipede, who had previously thrown urine and feces at police and workers below, was arrested in connection with the incident and taken out of the grove, Mogulof said.

Mogulof said arborists were issued orders yesterday not to remove the tree-sitters unless absolutely necessary.

"Arborists have strict instructions not to remove anyone, but it's fluid," he said.

As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, no other tree-sitters have been extracted from the grove. A total of four people have been arrested in connection with the protest over the last two days.

Unofficial tree-sit leader RunningWolf arrived at to the grove at 7:18 a.m. Tuesday, about two minutes after tree-sitters began to pour urine on arborists, police and other workers below.

"Don't worry, we're ready for this," RunningWolf yelled to the eight to 12 tree-sitters in the grove.

Fluctuating numbers of curious onlookers and tree-sit supporters began to congregate on Piedmont Avenue. A majority of the tree-sit supporters stood between parked cars, spilling over into the northbound side of the street because of the closed sidewalk, while a majority of the onlookers watched from the meridian and across the street.

By 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, the tree-sit supporters began to heckle the arborists and police, something they would continue to do nearly non-stop for the next two days.

At a press conference held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, campus officials said if the tree-sitters had come down voluntarily, the campus would not have to try to make it harder for them to stay in the oaks.

"It's really unfortunate that it's come to this," Mogulof said. "How it unfolds depends on the people in the trees ... we hope there is an outbreak of common sense."

Tree-sit supporters said that at least one of the people currently in the trees is a UC Berkeley student.

However, many of the onlooking students expressed disapproval of the tree-sit as a whole.

"I don't want my tuition wasted," said junior Nehal Naik. "The university should have done something way earlier."

At about noon on Tuesday, the Berkeley Police Department stepped in to block northbound traffic on Piedmont. The lane remained closed on Wednesday as tree-sit supporters and onlookers continued to stand on the street to watch the tree-sit saga unfold.

At about 6 p.m. on Wednesday Doug Buckwald, spokesperson for Save the Oaks, announced to the crowd of about 150 congregated on the street through a megaphone that the oaks would stay, causing supporters to rejoice and hug one another.

However, campus officials said they believe that they will be able to move forward with construction-which will ultimately mean the trees will be removed-after making the changes to the environmental impact report requested by Alameda County Superior Judge Barbara J. Miller.

Buckwald announced the news to those in the oaks, causing Michael "Fresh" Schuck to kiss a female tree-sitter known as "Dumpster Muffin."

Onlooking students called the celebration pre-mature, saying that the tree-sitters had not really won much.

"It's not really much of a success," said junior Brian Bostwick. "Their excitement is a bit overzealous."

Tree-sit supporters celebrated and yelled to those in the trees that they were "heroes" to many people.

"I'm elated," said sophomore Laura Zelko.

However, many uninvolved students said they do not hold the protesters so highly.

"I like how everyone forgot about them during the middle of the year," said junior Chris Wong, who said he came to the grove because he saw helicopters.

Tree-sit supporters said the tree-sitters plan to stay until the campus issues a written statement saying they will never cut down the oaks.


Ashley Trott is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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