UC Berkeley Campus Police have cited two of the tree-sitters protesting plans to cut down a grove of Oaks for the new Memorial Stadium, including former mayoral candidate Zachary Running Wolf, and served court orders barring them from campus.
Running Wolf said he was detained outside Barrows Hall where he was meeting with Native American faculty and served with an order barring him from campus for seven days.
Other officers cornered Asa Dodsworth that same morning, serving him with a similar citation and order, and a third protester was cited Thursday morning. He had not been a tree-sitter but had worked the crew of volunteers supporting the tree-in.
Kingman Lim, who granted from Cal earlier this year with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, was the second tree-sitter cited, picked off Thursday after he left his perch concealed in a large bag. He was barred from campus for two weeks.
“The campus cops were all over it, and they served him with an order to stay off campus for two weeks,” said Doug Buckwald, ground support coordinator for the arboreal protesters. “He wasn’t primarily a tree-sitter, and he helped us with ropes and climbing.”
The tree-sitters and their supporters are protesting the proposed destruction of most of the trees to make way for a four-story high tech gym planned for the site along the stadium’s western wall.
Running Wolf had left his perch briefly for a meeting with Ethnic Studies faculty when officers, assisted by a police dog, cornered him, cited him for trespassing and “ordered me to stay away from campus for seven days,” he said.
To ensure that he—or a replacement—doesn’t return to his perch high in a California redwood, campus police have maintained a constant presence around the tree since Wednesday morning.
“They’re so pleased with themselves. They captured a tree,” Buckwald said. Police brought a ladder to the tree late Thursday afternoon to begin removing Running Wolf’s sleeping platform and equipment.
But the university’s victory is only partial, because other activists are in residence in nearby coastal live oaks, and supporters in ever varying numbers have kept constant watch from the ground.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Great Berkeley Tree-in are asking the community to come to the stadium grove from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a festival honoring the tree-sitters.
“There’ll be singing and dancing and poetry and good food and good people,” said Buckwald. “We want the whole community to come.”
Ongoing public support has kept the tree-sitters and ground crew well fed, and participants have adopted a new name for themselves in keeping with a long Berkeley tradition—Free Speech in the Trees.
“We like free speech so much we do it everywhere, including on the ground and 50 feet up in the trees,” said Buckwald.
Campus police maintained a beefed-up presence that increased as the day progressed Wednesday. Protesters grew worried as the day wore on and up to 13 officers were in evidence along with a van, and rumors spread of an impending sweep to clear protesters from the grove.
Meanwhile, members of Copwatch were joined by activist videographer LA Wood as their cameras captured the images and voices of the officers watching them.
Brendan Keenan said he was taping for Copwatch starting at 4 a.m. when the first officer came, followed by the arrival of another officer four hours later.
During a break in the police presence, Running Wolf descended and was cornered and a detective and two more uniformed officers soon arrived, and thereafter police maintained a constant presence at the base of Running Wolf’s tree.
The former mayoral candidate returned in late afternoon, carefully staying on the Gayley Road pavement. Keenan said one of the activists and a campus police sergeant got in a verbal sparring match.
Andy Kramer, a student who has been helping to coordinate the protest, said he advised Running Wolf to run after two officers drove by and asked him to wait while they parked so they could “check some of the spellings” in their report.
Figuring an arrest might be imminent, the activist left.
Copwatch had been maintaining a presence for several days in response to what organizers called a campaign of police harassment.
Officers made frequent nocturnal sweeps in which they awakened the tree-sitters as often as once an hour, a practice that ground support organizer Doug Buckwald called dangerous because it made the protesters groggy and disoriented.
After leaving the scene earlier in the day, Running Wolf returned in the evening, this time walking into the grove where he talked with fellow protesters.
“The police saw him but they didn’t do anything,” said Buckwald.
If apprehended in violation of the order, the activist could be charged with a misdemeanor, rather than the simple infraction for which he was already cited. University officials are anxious to start excavation at the site, driven by the self-imposed need to have that part of the work done by the time football season starts in the next summer.
UC Berkeley Capital Projects staff met with would-be project contractors Tuesday morning in their off-campus office at 1936 University Ave. prior to the submission of bids to build the glade-clearing Student Athlete High Performance Center, only to be greeted by a bullhorn call from protesters outside, “Hello up there. Welcome to Berkeley.”
LA Wood said he attended the session, where developers greeted news that the site was filled with protesters “with only a nervous laugh or two.”
It was during that protest that officers detained, cited and served Dodsworth, said Running Wolf. “They had four cars come, even though it was off-campus,” he said.
Would-be bidders have until 2 p.m. today (Friday) to submit their pre-qualification statements spelling out their suitability to take on the massive project.
A Native American and environmental activist, Running Wolf launched the protest by taking up residence in a California Redwood just west of Memorial Stadium in the pre-dawn hours of Big Game Saturday, Dec. 9.
He was soon joined by UC Berkeley student Aaron Diek and environmentalist Jess Walsh, and In the days that followed, others have joined in, either taking perches of their own to spelling the sitters during their occasional descents to earth.
The university intends to destroy 38 of the oaks—a protected species inside Berkeley’s city limits—along with a Giant Sequoia and a mixed collection of other trees to make way for a 132,500-square-foot, four-story high-tech gym and office structure to be built at the site of the grove at the base of the stadium’s western wall.
Regents approved the project five days before Running Wolf ascended to his perch, simultaneously accepting a controversial environmental impact report (EIR) that greenlights a massive wave of construction at and near the stadium.
The protesters are a mixed collection of neighborhood residents, environmental activists, civil libertarians and concerned students. Two UC Berkeley professors—Ignacio Chapela and Claudia Carr—joined them at the peak of tensions during the afternoon.
Also on hand was Michael Kelly, an officer of the Panoramic Hill Association neighborhood organization which has already filed the first suit challenging the EIR. The city will be filing its own suit, an action already approved by the City Council, said City Manager Phil Kamlarz.