Protesters arrested for planting tree

July 21, 2008 11:02:29 AM PDT
Six protesters of the removal of a grove of oak trees on the University of California, Berkeley campus were arrested today after they planted an oak seedling on the lawn of the university's chancellor, a UC Berkeley police spokesman said.

Around 5 p.m. a group of up to 50 people marched from the site of the oak grove, where four to six protesters are living in an attempt to keep the university from tearing down the trees to build a new sports training center, to UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's house, according to Doug Buckwald, a spokesman for the tree protesters.

Once at the chancellor's house, located on the university's campus, the group dug a 2-foot round circle and planted the oak seedling, UC Berkeley police spokesman Mitch Celaya said.

The seedling, once an acorn that fell from one of the oak trees in the grove, is about 6 inches tall and has been maturing for a year, Buckwald said.

Campus police reportedly watched as the protesters secured the seedling in the ground, according to Buckwald.

"UC Berkeley police were observing the activities but didn't say anything," Buckwald said.

After the seedling was planted, UC Berkeley police arrested six protesters who police believe were "the main participants in committing this act," Celaya said.

Four protesters were arrested near the north gate entrance to the university, and two were arrested just east of the chancellor's house, according to Buckwald.

The protesters were arrested for vandalism, trespassing and conspiracy, Celaya said.

The protesters who participated in today's march from the oak grove to the chancellor's house had planned to keep a 24-hour vigil in front of the seedling, according to Buckwald.

The march comes days after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller said she will try to rule as soon as possible on UC Berkeley's request that she modify an injunction which currently prevents the university from building a new sports training center at the site of the oak trees.

Miller issued the injunction Jan. 29, 2007, which bars the university from going ahead with its proposed $140 million, 158,000-square foot project. A UC Board of Regents committee approved building the training center Dec. 5, 2006, prompting protesters against the project to climb into the grove of oak trees that would need to be torn down in order for the project to be completed in an effort to stop the project.

Protesters have been living in the trees since then, and others have gathered at the base of the trees to offer support to the tree sitters. Between four and six protesters remained in the trees today, according to Buckwald.


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