Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Tree sitters intent on saving an old oak grove on the UC Berkeley campus don't seem much interested in a judge's orders to come on down.

The tree sitters are protesting the university's plans to build a $125 million sports training center in the grove. The university has pledged to plant three trees for every one that is removed, but protesters say about 40 trees can not be adequately replaced because of their age and size.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Kelly granted the University of California Berkeley a preliminary injunction aimed at bringing the protesters down from the treetops where they have been perched for nearly a year. The judge barred the protesters from "lodging in, scaling, climbing or hanging or sitting or standing" in tree-houses, hammocks or platforms in the grove, according to the order.

University officials asked for the injunction because of what they described as rapidly increasing safety and sanitation problems at the grove.

The protesters told the local press they would not abandon the tree houses they have holed up in and questioned how allowing the oaks to be cut down was protecting university property.

That seems like a good question.

A representative of Save the Oaks, which has been supporting the tree sitters, said the ruling wasn't a total victory for the campus.

``I think UC Berkeley did not get as much as they thought they were going to get out of this,'' said Doug Buckwald. ``I think they have the same difficulty as they had before. They always thought they had the right to enforce their laws prohibiting lodging and trespassing against the tree sitters.''

Asked what effect the court ruling may have on his clients, attorney Dennis Cunningham, who represents the tree-sitters, told the Daily Planet “It remains to be seen. The only client of mine named [in the injunction] has decamped from the trees. He is subject to the order but not in violation of the order. All my clients have not been brought before the court, so it’s up to the university to make the next move.”

But Zachary Running Wolf, the Native American who led off the tree-sit by ascending a redwood in the grove at the start of the protest, said he was afraid that the university will use the ruling to take harsh action against his fellow activists.

“I’m afraid that they’re going after our ground support,” he said.

Running Wolf ridiculed the order and told the San Francisco Chronicle, "They're saying we're endangering the trees when they're planning to chop them down. It's a big joke."

In another Alameda County Superior Court room, hearings continue over the fate of the $125 million athletic training facility the university wants to build in a portion of the grove site. Judge Barbara Miller will decide if the facility would violate the Alquist-Priolo Act, a state law that bans new buildings on earthquake faults.

The City of Berkeley, a neighborhood group and the tree-sitters sued to stop the project, claiming the site is too dangerous because it's traversed by the Hayward Fault.

Testimony in the case resumes today, and closing arguments are expected next week. Miller has 90 days to issue a ruling.

Since the protest started on Dec. 2, 2006 tree sit organizers say more than 300 different people have perched in the trees at different times.

The following is from ABC7/KGO-TV/DT (California)

Tree Sitters Defiant Against Court OrderContinue Protest Over New Sports Training Facility

The tree sitters who are trying to save an oak grove on the UC Berkeley campus are defiant today, saying they won't obey a judge's order to leave. They've been there for nearly a year.

UC Berkeley police are now trying to figure out a safe way to get the protesters out of the trees.

The judge's order doesn't seem to be doing much today. The tree sitters are still on their perches in the oak grove and they say they have no plans of leaving.

With one down and several more to go UC Berkeley police are trying to find a peaceful way to remove tree sitters who have set up camp in the university's oak grove

"I respect the law, but these trees come above the law," said Casey Shobe, tree sitter.

"It's really tricky when you are serving papers on people who are 80 feet up in the trees and many of them are wearing masks" said Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley spokesman.

Casey Shobe, who has been in the trees for nearly three months, isn't afraid to show his face. He said police know who he is.

"They know who I am, I'm not quite sure why I wasn't on that lawsuit honestly, and a lot of others because they know who we are," said Casey Shobe.

On Monday university officials won a small victory when a judge ordered all tree sitters out of the limbs. The only problem is that only one name was named on the injunction. That sitter left the grove without a problem. The university hopes that other sitters will follow.

"We are going to leave no stone unturned in our effort to end this situation peacefully. Now in the wake of the judge's order, we are asking the people to come out of the trees voluntarily," said Dan Mogulof.

Protestors set up camp here last December while trying to prevent the trees from being cleared for a new athletic training facility. The fate of the facility is currently in the courts. A judge will decide if it is safe to build it next to the stadium. Some say it is too close to the Hayward fault line. But before any construction can begin the university faces the challenge of removing Casey Shobe and his friends

"My goal is to stay here until all of these trees are safe," said Casey Shobe.

Interestingly enough these trees are not even that old. A UC spokesperson said they were planted in the 1920's as part of a landscaping project and at this point they are near the end of their life span.

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