Tree-sitting nearly leads to a riot

By
March 17, 2008

An attempt to bring food and water to a lone tree-sitter near the University of California Berkeley nearly caused a riot on March 9.

The tree-sitter, who calls himself “Fresh,” is among many individuals that are protesting the planned removal of an oak grove during the renovation of the campus stadium.

Fresh has been in a tree near Sather Gate since Feb. 29, according to reports in Inside Bay Area. Already, police have barricaded the tree in order to keep supporters away and to limit Fresh’s food and water supply, according to police officers on the scene.

A previous court order sanctions police to do that. “In late October, the University secured a court order that says tree sitters or anyone acting in concert with or aiding them could face a $1,000 fine, five days in jail, or both,” explained Kristen Bender of the Contra Costa Times.

“Many tree sitters and their supporters have been arrested since the order went into effect,” she added.

This court order was in full effect as supporters came to the aid of Fresh, who is currently living on the lemons and oranges he brought up in the tree.

People who tried to give Fresh water were interrupted by officers who grabbed the water supplies and threw the water bottles on the ground beyond the fence.

Anyone who passed the fence was threatened with arrest for trespassing on a crime scene and Fresh could not come down to pick up the water or else he also faced arrest, according to Officer Sean Aranas of the UC Berkeley campus police.

Two people at this sitting were arrested for throwing water up into the tree and were cited on grounds of “facilitating the crime,” according to Officer Aranas.

UC Berkeley campus police officers physically restrained the people who attempted to throw the water bottles to Fresh.

After the group dispersed, protesters ran to students who were passing by or watching in order to gain more support. “They are blocking medical aid to this Cal student; to this peaceful protestor,” a woman screamed as an officer restrained her.

People who were near the scene chanted, “Food and water,” in support of the tree-sitter. After the commotion of the arrests settled down, Fresh said, “Love you, guys,” as he plucked three bottles of water from the branches.

Zachary Running Wolf, an original tree-sitter, who sat in a tree for 464 days said, “There is no justification for depriving [the tree-sitter] of his basic human needs. This has become Guantanamo Berkeley.”

Many students who were spectators did not really understand why the officers were being so aggressive towards the protestors.

“Eventually he’s going to come down whether or not he has food and water,” said student Tony Cheng. “I’m sure there’s a lot more important things for [the campus police] to be doing than patrolling a tree.”

Many officers insisted they would let Fresh go without arresting him. Senior Chief on Duty Officer Tejada said, “We already know his identity. He can come down and leave with his people if he wants. Assistant Chief Celaya even told him.”

Tejada explained the District Attorney may decide to pursue charges, but the campus police would not immediately arrest Fresh.

As the day quieted, Running Wolf announced they would return everyday to provide Fresh with food and water.

Four groups are currently suing UC Berkeley over said plans, including the city of Berkeley, Panorama Hill Association, California Oak Foundation and Save Tightwad Hill.


Tree-sitting nearly leads to a riot was published on March 17, 2008 in News

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