Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Authorities negotiate with two tree-sitters at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif.

Berkeley Protesters Come Down From the Trees

September 10, 2008 05:02 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Four tree-sitters left a redwood on Tuesday after 21 months, agreeing to end their protest to save a grove of trees at University of California, Berkeley.

Protesters Surrender to Police

The tree-sitters were escorted down a seven-story scaffold built to reach their platform in the 90-foot redwood. Before that, campus police chief Victoria Harrison had conducted negotiations while “dangling in a basket lifted by a crane,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

The redwood was cut down hours later, to create space for a $125-million athletic training facility.

“We gave it a good fight,” said a protester called Ayr to the LAT. “It’s unfortunate that the death culture marches forward, but we’re going to keep fighting for life.”

The protest at the 1.5-acre grove started in December 2006. Since then, hundreds of people have spent time in the trees, some for days or months, in order to save what they say is one of few natural areas on campus. The state decided Thursday that construction could proceed, and the school immediately cut down more than 40 trees, isolating the four tree-sitters in the remaining redwood. The protesters will be charged with trespassing and violating a court order.

Earlier this year, in June, UC police removed supplies from the tree-sitters in what they assumed would be the end of what the Daily Californian reported as the longest urban tree sit-in history.

Background: Activists’ tactic started as fun diversion for kids

Tree-sitting, an activity that is mostly associated today with environmental activism, first became popular among schoolchildren in 1930, according to The Berkeley Daily Planet. Kids across the nation climbed high in the trees and built treehouses to compete for prizes, glory and the chance to get their pictures in the newspaper.

“From Jersey to Georgia, Bremerton to Santa Barbara, the ‘tree sitting epidemic’ spread. Sitters went on radio, took baths and had haircuts and doctor’s visits aloft. Radio stations updated hourly and interviewed four-year-olds on the resupply teams. To the consternation of parents and property owners, the crowds increased by the week,” writes Hank Chapot in the Daily Planet.

Opinion & Analysis: Berkeley campus activism not the same

The students of UC-Berkeley may not even notice that the protest has ended, comments the Economist: “A generation ago, they would have been turning the town upside down. Today, they study. … The ageing hippies in the city council find them shockingly conservative.”

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