Buh-bye, Berkeley tree-sitters

A judge ruled today that the University of California, Berkeley can remove all tree-sitters from a grove of oak trees next to the university's football stadium, even if the protesters aren't identified by name.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller's ruling expands on a preliminary injunction he issued on Oct. 1, which only applied to one tree protester, David Galloway, as he was the only tree protester the university had managed to track down and serve notice of its lawsuit.

Keller said in addition to Galloway, the ruling now applies to “all other persons acting in concert or participating with them,” referring to the tree-sitters.

Protesters have been in the trees since UC regents voted last December to approve a plan to build a sports training center and other facilities near the stadium.

Those who violate thecourt order can be found in contempt of court, fined up to $1,000, jailed up to five days and be ordered to pay attorney's fees, Robinson said.

However, university officials have been vague about any plans to enforce the court's order.

UC-Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said, “We will inform all the people in the trees that this ruling applies to them and we hope that they will come down and we can find a peaceful resolution to this.”

Mogulof said the protest is “a dangerous and illegal occupation of university property” and it isn't a free speech issue because protesters have other forums to demonstrate against the university's plans.

Mogulof said the university is “evaluating a number of possible scenarios” if the tree protesters don't come down but he declined to be more specific.

Zachary Running Wolf, a former Berkeley mayoral candidate who has been the most visible and vocal tree protester, couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Keller's ruling.

The university's plans to build a new sports training facility and other facilities, including a large underground parking lot, have been on hold since Jan. 29, when another judge, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller, issued a preliminary injunction at the request of three plaintiff groups who sued the university.

The project calls for clearing a grove of oak trees near the football stadium, which is where protesters have been living since last December.

The plaintiffs, which are the city of Berkeley, a neighborhood group and the California Oak Foundation, allege the proposed project is unsafe because it's near a dangerous earthquake fault and violates environmental laws.

On Oct. 11 Miller concluded a non-jury trial on the issue of whether she should stop the project permanently. She has up to mid-January to issue her ruling but is expected to render her decision sometime in the next several weeks.

— Bay City News

Bay Area NewsLocal

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