The Daily Californian Online

Community Reacts to Tree-Sit's Conclusion

By Stephanie M. Lee
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Category: News > University

The last four tree-sitters descended from their posts on Tuesday after UC Berkeley constructed a scaffold around their redwood tree.

As dusk fell on Piedmont Avenue Tuesday, the sawdust was settling, the crowds were quieting and Zachary RunningWolf was leaving. And he was taking something with him-a tattered banner that read "Broken Treety."

"It's going to find a home," said the perennial mayoral candidate who, one cold dawn in December 2006, climbed the oak grove near Memorial Stadium and began the longest urban tree-sit in history. "Another tree, another movement."

The movement that inspired the banner and captured national media attention concluded Tuesday when four activists descended a lone redwood. They and other tree-sitters spent 21 months protesting the $124 million athletic center proposed by the campus, which finished removing all but one tree yesterday.

For a few who were key players from the start, those 648 days were exhilarating, frustrating and exhausting.

"We all lost something today," said RunningWolf, the protest's unofficial leader, gazing at the cleared ground. "Those trees had 648 days of being loved."

Now that arborists have felled all but one of the trees slated for removal, the campus plans to break ground on its athletic training center immediately following the last home football game of the season, said Sandy Barbour, UC Berkeley's athletic director.

On Tuesday, university-hired construction workers built a scaffolding around the protesters' redwood. As the number of onlookers swelled to 300, police escorted the tree-sitters-Michael "Shem" Schuck, 26; Armando "Mando" Resendez, 20; Ernesto Trevino, 18; and Raul "Huck" Colocho, 27-down and into Santa Rita County Jail.

For now, Piedmont Avenue remains lined with makeshift tents and the activists who built them. Many will leave the sidewalk soon, said Erik "Ayr" Eisenberg, the protest's unofficial spokesperson.

For Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley's executive director of public affairs, the protest's end comes as a huge relief.

Mogulof spoke on campus officials' behalf on nearly every issue concerning the athletic center, the fierce legal battle it ignited and the tree-sit that lasted much longer than anticipated.

"The media really focused on and had an almost insatiable appetite for what they saw as a possibility for conflict," he said. "There was never as much attention to the underlying conflict-why we wanted to build, what we wanted to build, where we wanted to build it."

With the tree-sit behind them, UC Berkeley officials are adding up their costs from the past 21 months. The campus invested $1.5 million in security measures, and has not released its legal expenses. Its proposed training center faced lawsuits from the city of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation.

"It is a shame we had to utilize so many resources to deal with this," said UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya. "I am happy, so to speak, that we're now hopefully moving beyond this."

But for UC Berkeley student Matthew Taylor, there won't be a conclusion until he writes it down.

The peace and conflict studies major was involved in the mediations between the campus and tree-sitters in the protest's final days. Now he is writing his senior thesis about the conflict, he said, and will begin listening to hundreds of hours of interviews with the people who made it all happen.

"The story isn't totally over," he said.

Will Kane of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

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