Tree sitters leave perch

Ending an epic battle over the fate of a grove of trees near the University of California, Berkeley's football stadium, four tree-sitters have descended from their perch atop a redwood tree.

The last two tree-sitters came down from the redwood shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. All four were handcuffed and led away by police. 

The descent was the culmination of a tension-filled day on campus marked by scuffles between police and protesters on the ground. Several ground protesters appeared to have been arrested. 

This morning, crews hired by the university began to construct scaffolding around the redwood tree where the sitters have been living. The scaffolding quickly grew and soon crews and police had reached the level of the tree-sitters' main platform.

The tree-sitters moved upward to avoid the crews as university Police Chief Victoria Harrison tried to negotiate with them from a metal basket hanging from a crane where she stood with several colleagues.

Around 12:50 p.m. a tree-sitter announced via walkie-talkie to a group of media gathered on the ground that the four planned to come down as part of an agreement with the university that called for the formation of a land-use committee that would have a voice in any future development by the university.

They began their descent shortly after 1 p.m., gathering their belongings and walking down a staircase that had been constructed along with the scaffolding.

Harrison said later that the four did not want to come down but relented once they realized police were serious about removing them.

Harrison said campus police and a scaffolding crew were prepared to continue building scaffolding all the way to the top of a 90-foot-tall redwood tree if that's what it took to remove the tree-sitters. Harrison said the tree-sitters then came down voluntarily. The
last tree-sitter came down at about 1:30 p.m.

Harrison said the four tree-sitters were arrested for multiple misdemeanor charges, including trespassing and violating a court order, and were taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

In addition, Harrison said five protestors on the ground were arrested for misdemeanor charges, including resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.

The tree is on a site near the university's football stadium, where the university plans to build a new sports training facility.

Joining Harrison at a news conference at the school's football stadium, UC-Berkeley Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom said, “I'm extremely pleased this tree situation has ended safely.”

The reaction to the descent was mixed among the hundreds of people who had gathered to watch the situation unfold. Some cheered the work crews who put together the scaffolding, and others called out support to the
tree-sitters, with one woman soliciting funds to bail them out of jail. 

The tree-sitters had been warned that the university planned to end their protest; on Monday, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university would move quickly to remove the tree-sitters to enable it to move forward with its plan to build a $125 million sports training center next to Memorial Stadium.

The university began tearing down trees at the construction site on Friday morning, the day after the state Court of Appeal rejected a request by opponents of the project to maintain an injunction that had halted work for 21 months.

    

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Bay City News

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