The Daily Californian Online

Tree-Sit Supporters Continue to Occupy Median

By Angelica Dongallo
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008
Category: News > City

DJ Stump, who runs the 104.1 FM Tree-Berkeley radio station, camps out on the Piedmont Avenue median on Sunday afternoon.

Some ground supporters of the ongoing tree-sit near UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium are violating a city ordinance by staking out a median on Piedmont Avenue, and neither the campus nor the city are willing to devote the resources to enforce it.

UCPD and Berkeley Police Department have made no significant efforts to clear the median, despite the two departments' histories of collaborating to address crime on campus and in the city.

While the university owns and operates both sides of Piedmont Avenue near the grove, the road itself-including the median-is the city's property.

Berkeley police and UCPD coordinate operations when dealing with crimes, such as homicides or robberies, that occur near campus.

In this case, Berkeley Police Chief Doug Hambleton has communicated to UCPD Chief Victoria Harrison that Berkeley police will use no enforcement to remove the supporters from the median, even though campus officials requested that Berkeley police deal with the issue.

Part of the reason no enforcement action has been taken is that campus and city officials disagree about whether or not the median campers pose a safety issue.

Campus officials cited health and safety problems resulting from people sleeping on the median strip, especially since there are car lanes on either side.

Berkeley police officials said based on ongoing assessments of the situation, ground supporters on the median currently do not pose an immediate threat to safety. Officials cite this as the reason for not taking action at this time.

Additionally, Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said in an e-mail that the median issue is not as pressing as other crime.

Some protesters at the site said citing safety issues with occupancy of the median is a strategy by the campus to remove the tree-sit supporters.

"Had they not done the fence and the sidewalk, we would never be in this spot," said unofficial protest leader Zachary RunningWolf.

While dealing with the supporters on the median would possibly divert city resources from dealing with crimes such as sexual assaults and robberies, some said the reason behind a lack of involvement by the Berkeley police is to prevent a clash between the protesters and themselves.

"The city would rather not get into a confrontation with the protesters," said City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak.

UCPD officers are stepping up efforts to keep people from sleeping on the median and are handing out information about the ordinance to raise awareness about legal and safety implications.

Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley's executive director of public affairs, said while UCPD has the authority to handle the situation at the median, the resources of the department are strained.

"It would be very helpful if the kind of collaboration that's existed in the past between the city and university on law enforcement issues would be extended to include this particular issue," Mogulof said.

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