Campus Gives Four Sitters a Deadline

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Many of them have been there for months, but after the campus removed 40 trees near Memorial Stadium in the past few days, the four remaining tree-sitters told campus officials they want to come down.

A San Francisco appellate court ruled Thursday UC Berkeley could begin removing trees from the oak grove, leading campus officials to begin negotiating the terms of the tree-sitters' departure.

On Friday morning, UCPD gave the tree-sitters 72 hours to evacuate, but Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley's executive director of public affairs, said the campus had yet to decide on a course of action when that ultimatum expires today.

"The agreement ends at 9 a.m., but what happens at 9:01 am has yet to be determined," he said.

The campus has provided the protesters with food and water, but Mogulof said it is uncertain whether it will continue to do so after today. Campus officials said they will likely not offer the sitters amnesty.

Several times throughout the weekend, UCPD Chief Victoria Harrison and Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya were lifted by a cherry picker to speak with the four remaining activists isolated in a single redwood tree.

The tree-sitters and their supporters primarily demanded that the campus allow them to speak with administrators about increasing communication for the prevention of future conflicts over development.

Yesterday morning, the two groups came close to an agreement. Tree-sitters would have been allowed to gather around the

"Grandmother Oak," one of the oldest trees in the grove, if they had vacated the redwood by 2 p.m. yesterday, according to campus officials.

But negotiations broke down after tree-sitters were told by ground supporters to hold out for additional demands, frustrating campus officials who believed they were near compromise.

A 27-year-old tree-sitter, who identified himself only as "Huck" and has been in the trees for six weeks, said that he could not trust campus officials in the negotiating process because they had made leaving the tree a prerequisite for any further discussions.

"We would love to come down," he said by phone. "But we need to establish some real things that will take place before we come down."

"We're trying to figure out what the things they are telling us really mean before we go ahead and make a definitive stand," he added.

But Mogulof said some of the sitters' demands may have been excessively influenced by their supporters on the ground.

"We're in the process of sorting through what's real," Mogulof said. "At this point how this ends is really up in the air. We're not giving up hope."

Peter Bluhon, the independent mediator hired by the campus, worked into the night yesterday trying to facilitate a deal between the sitters, their supporters and the campus.

"What it comes down to is how this is the beginning of perhaps greater cooperation between the campus, interest groups and community groups," he said.


Will Kane is the city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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