Tree-Sit Ends: Four Remaining Sitters Exit the Oak Grove

Photo: UC Berkeley-hired construction workers built a scaffold around the redwood tree that the last four protesters occupied until yesterday, when they decided to exit the oak grove.
Skyler Reid/Staff
UC Berkeley-hired construction workers built a scaffold around the redwood tree that the last four protesters occupied until yesterday, when they decided to exit the oak grove.

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Tree-Sit Ends

After 640 days the tree-sit at Memorial Stadium finally comes to an end.

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The Tree-Sit at Memorial Stadium

Staff members from The Daily Californian recount the history of the tree-sit.

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One-by-one, the four remaining tree-sitters in the redwood near Memorial Stadium were arrested and escorted by campus police down from their lone perch yesterday afternoon, ending the longest urban tree-sit in history.

The four protesters-known to their supporters as Shem, Mando, Ernesto and Huck-came down after the campus constructed scaffolding, which reached 90 feet in the air to the top of the tree, in order to forcibly remove them.

Campus police and athletic officials could hardly contain their smiles and sighs of relief as they watched a lone arborist with a chain-saw remove the top of the redwood tree, the activists' former home.

By the late afternoon yesterday, the tree-sitters were in jail, the scaffolding had been removed and the redwood had been cut down.

The activists first climbed into the trees on Dec. 2, 2006, seeking to prevent the removal of 42 trees at the site of the proposed $124 million athletic center.

Since then, hundreds of people have spent time in the trees and there have been dozens of arrests.

Campus officials say it has cost the campus nearly $1.5 million to maintain a police and security presence at the grove and to construct two barbed-wire-topped fences that have separated the sitters from both their supporters and angry football fans.

Yesterday, campus officials said they could hardly believe that less than a week ago they were still wondering if they could even begin construction.

Last Thursday, a state appellate court issued a decisive decision allowing the campus to begin construction that had been blocked by a lower court since January 2007.

The supporters of the tree-sit seemed shocked as well by the new reality-the cause they had rallied around for almost two years had suddenly disappeared.

"This doesn't have to be like this," said Janette Reid, a supporter who has been involved in the protest since the beginning. "This hurts one's heart."

In a flurry of activity after months of waiting, campus officials spent the weekend cutting down 40 trees and negotiating with the tree-sitters and their supporters.

But by Sunday night, both sides had reached an impasse and called off negotiations.

In a last-ditch effort yesterday, UCPD Chief Victoria Harrison spent much of the morning hanging from a crane in a metal basket, conducting negotiations with the tree-sitters.

As the scaffolding continued to rise toward their encampment in the tree, the sitters asked the police to step back and give them five minutes to consider their options.

"I think they realized that our ability to physically remove them if we needed to was now possible because of the scaffolding," Harrison said later. "I talked a lot with them about coming down with some dignity."

Eventually, the tree-sitters said they would agree to come down if Vice Chancellor of Administration Nathan Brostrom promised to issue a statement saying the campus will involve the community in future land-use decisions.

Brostrom agreed, but said in a press conference later that the idea was nothing new.

"It is, of course, in our interest to avoid these long and protracted delays so we, of course, are interested in looking at new and innovative ways to work with the community moving forward," he said.

The four sitters, whose real names are Michael "Shem" Schuck, 26; Armando "Mando" Resendez, 20; Ernesto Trevino, 18; and Raul "Huck" Colocho, 27; were booked into Santa Rita County Jail in connection with a variety of misdemeanors, including trespassing and violation of a court order.

Schuck, who occupied an oak near Wheeler Hall under the pseudonym "Fresh" last spring, also had $22,000 in misdemeanor warrants relating to his time in the trees.

In an interview by walkie-talkie before deciding to come down from the trees, Colocho said the time and effort that was put in the tree-sit was useful.

"I stood up for ideas and those of people's in the community," he said. "It was worth it."

But when asked what the first thing he would do after descending, Colocho replied, "Probably go to jail."


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

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