UC Berkeley pulls the plug on tree sitters

September 6, 2008 12:14:06 AM PDT
The long battle over a grove of trees at U.C. Berkeley appears to coming to a final head. The university began cutting down trees on Friday and arresting anyone who stood in the way.

The cutting has stopped for now, and four tree sitters remain perched in the branches of a giant redwood.

Big changes are underway after two years of standoffs between the two sides. There was a lot action on Friday night, and the tree sitters were on cables Friday night dangling from the upper branches.

Most of the branches beneath that part were cut off on Friday, as well as other trees. This appears to be end.

U.C. Berkeley police pulled out their batons for crowd control, as crews pulled out saws and the trees in the grove outside Memorial Stadium fell one, after another, after another.

Fourty-two of the 70 trees will be chopped down this weekend. One redwood where four tree sitters still reside in the branches will stand until at least Monday.

On Friday, they dueled with arborists trimming branches.

"The University has and will continue to do everything possible to avoid forcible extraction of people in the trees. It will be a very risky endeavor and we are hoping in the next few days the reality of the new legal situation will sink in, and quite clearly in the next two or three days their reason for being here will no longer exist," said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

"It's up to the individuals in trees what they want to do, but I don't think they are going anywhere. This is a despicable action and we are not going to cooperate with them in any way, and we are going to demand accountability from this university," said tree sitters' spokesman Ayr.

Five minutes later, Ayr was arrested for blocking the street. Tensions boiled into angry confrontations as police tried to move protestors off Gayley Road, and then two more arrests followed.

A fire was set in bushes across the street from the stadium and that sparked more anger in the crowd. Several supporters who blocked a patrol car fought officers who wrestled them to the ground. Others were pushed over.

"I got to say these U.C. Berkeley cops why are they kicking out people that are blocking out the roads. Why can't they give us a minute so that we can cry our tears? What is it that they rolled over us like a bulldozer," said Berkeley resident Andrea Prichett.

The tree cutting started on Friday, after a California Appeal Court gave the university the green light on Thursday. This is after almost two years of legal wrangling over construction of an athletic training facility.

With the trees around them gone, the final four tree sitters are an island unto themselves now.

U.C. Berkley said the cuttings from the trees will be turned into mulch for the campus, and they promised to plant two or three trees for each tree, and the cutting will resume on Saturday morning.


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