UC Seeks Legal, Police Fees From Tree-Sitters

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It has been more than two weeks since the final stand-off in the oak grove near Memorial Stadium, but the university is seeking thousands of dollars from the tree-sitters and their supporters.

Protesters potentially face thousands of dollars in fines, jail time or both, because they violated a judge's order banning them from the grove.

The university is seeking the maximum penalty for people found to be in violation of the judge's order, said university counsel Michael Goldstein.

Campus officials spent approximately $1.5 million in fencing, scaffolding and security personnel and diverted police resources to handle the protest surrounding the grove.

"We want to be very clear that using methods like this to make their point will not be tolerated," Goldstein said.

However, some tree-sit supporters said the university's actions are unnecessary, vengeful and a waste of time and money.

"They don't have to file this to begin with," said Carol Strickman, an attorney who has been working on the issue with some of the protesters. "Apparently, they're interested in blood; they want jail, jail, jail, money, money, money."

The university is seeking to punish the protesters for violating a court order that was issued by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller on Oct. 29, 2007.

Keller's injunction prohibited the protest and aid to tree-sitters and was revised to apply to all the tree-sitters and "all other persons acting in concert or participating" in the protest that began in December 2006.

Keller called for anyone who violated the order to be subject to up to a $1,000 fine payable to the court, five days in jail or both, and possibly payment of the other party's attorney's fees.

Tree-sit supporters Erik Eisenberg, Gregg Horton, Terri Slanetz, Matthew Taylor and Michael Schuck may have to pay almost $27,000 total for the university's attorney's fees, according to Goldstein. Schuck faces $8,600-the largest sum-because he was in the trees and could therefore not appear at his scheduled court date.

Goldstein said the tree-sitters pushed the university to take action when they deliberately violated Keller's court order, and that protests like the one at the oak grove cannot be repeated.

Two groups of protesters have already appeared in civil court in relation to violating the court order, and a third group-comprised of the last four tree-sitters and two others-was seen by a judge yesterday. The cases will be heard over the next few weeks.

Strickman said she thinks the university should drop the matter since the protesters failed to keep the trees in the grove from being cut down.

"They took the trees down, okay. That was horrible," Strickman said. "Now to add insult to injury, we're being punished for what we tried to do."


Angelica Dongallo is the assistant morning news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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