UC Berkeley trims down tree sitters

August 22, 2008 12:24:13 AM PDT
The roar of chainsaws certainly got the attention of the tree protestors at UC Berkeley. It's the university's latest attempt to convince the final four to come down.

Protestors say the demonstration has reached its 630th day. The university did what they could to try to make life a little more difficult for the remaining four tree sitters.

A tree sitter raised a pole Thursday night as a symbolic gesture of victory. He claimed he grabbed it from arborists, who spent part of the afternoon removing tarps and other supplies used by the tree sitters.

"We saw them eye to eye. Amen," said a tree sitter.

It is the latest chapter of the ongoing saga between protesters and the university, which wants to cut down more than 40 trees to make way for an athletic training center. However, despite Thursday's efforts, protesters remained defiant, even when arborists started cutting two dozen tree branches.

"There's nothing to gain by this. There is absolutely nothing to gain other than what they perceive as a win by getting us down, which is not going to happen," said Huckleberry, a tree sitter.

The university says with school starting, they had no choice but to prune the trees. Arborists cut the branches strategically aimed at making it difficult for the tree sitters to get around.

"The pruning today was done for one reason and one reason only and that was to ensure that we can keep the tree sitters contained to a single tree. That will allow us to redeploy some of our police force to meet a real increase in the demand of their services as students return to campus this coming Saturday," said Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesperson.

Still, protesters question whether the university violated a court order that prohibits construction from starting at the site. They also say the university reneged on a promise that ensured them 72 hours notice before any drastic measures by police.

"We feel slighted. We definitely feel slighted," said Zachary RunningWolf, a protest organizer.

RunningWolf and other protesters met with UC Berkeley Police Thursday evening to voice their concerns. Although nothing was resolved, they say the day's incident has emboldened them.

"Any time we see movement, we will react appropriately and in a peaceful manner, but we will react and we will save this grove," said RunningWolf.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday when a judge could lift a court order that prohibits the university from stating construction.


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