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Tables Seized At Oak Grove; Running Wolf Jailed

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 27, 2007

Zachary Running Wolf, the activist who launched the tree-sit at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, spent the weekend in jail, charged with threatening campus police. 

But other campus police actions against protesters fighting to protect a grove of trees strike an even deeper resonance with historic events in Berkeley’s past—the seizure of information tables.  

Held in lieu of $40,000 bail, Running Wolf had company in Berkeley’s city jail—a second protester, Leah Bass, who had been arrested earlier in the day for violating an order to stay off campus. 

A scheduled arraignment Monday afternoon was postponed until 9 a.m. today (Tuesday) in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. 

Police have been serving tree-sitters with stay-away orders and arresting violators who return before the orders expire. Running Wolf has been arrested twice, the first time Feb. 16 for failing to appear at a court hearing following his arrest for allegedly vandalizing stop signs, and again Friday evening for allegedly threatening officers during the previous bust. 

In addition to the arrests, campus officers made two sweeps of the grove last week, planted in honor of UC Berkeley’s World War I war dead, one late Thursday morning followed by a second 20 hours later. 

Among the items seized two tables which contained information about the protests, seized as part of what campus police Sgt. David Roby said was a move to seize “everything on the ground.” 

“They have repeatedly taken our information tables,” said Doug Buckwald, who has been coordinating support for the tree-sitters. 

“We went down and demanded our information back in January,” said Ayr, another member of the support team. “We haven’t done it this time because we’re concentrating on helping” Running Wolf. 

Ayr said he believed that the activist had been targeted because of his outspoken comments to the media. 

Seizing information tables evoked strong resonance among members of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) because it was a campus move to evict information tables that ignited the spark that led to the movement’s creation, said Jackie Goldberg, a retired member of the California Assembly and an FSM activist. 

“That really started it all,” she said. “It’s interesting that they haven’t quite figured it out yet. The random terror of the administration, as we called it then, only created more people interested in supporting the demonstrators. You would think the university had learned that the more you do stuff to these people, the more people will support them.” 

A Sept. 14, 1964, letter from Dean of Students Katherine A. Towle banning information tables from the sidewalk on Bancroft Way at the corner of Telegraph Avenue sparked simmering tensions on campus and ignited what was to become the FSM. 

“The growing use and misuse of the area has made it imperative that the University enforce throughout the campus the policy long ago set down by The Regents,” Towle wrote. 

Michael Rossman, a movement veteran who coordinated the FSM’s 40th anniversary commemoration, scoffed at the notion that the university might have learned anything from the events of four decades past. 

“The idea that the university has learned anything in humanistic terms is an illusion suited to the first half of the previous century,” he said. 

While the university sent a vice chancellor to the funeral of movement activist Mario Savio and sponsored anniversary celebrations, Rossman said, “the administration has to this day never admitted that it was wrong” in ordering removal of the tables and in the actions that followed. 

Rossman said he sees moves against the grove protesters and the university’s attack on the Free Speech Movements as two points of a triangle, with the third being the university’s expansion into downtown Berkeley. 

“They pay no attention to the town as a livable and humane community,” he said. “It’s a shame and a pity that we have a municipal government that lies down and rolls over for the university just as it does for developers.” 


Barbour promise  

The increased pressure followed a week after an email from campus Athletic Director Sandy Barbour announced to supporters that donors have pledged nearly $100 million to build a gym at the site of the grove. 

Referring to the four lawsuits that have been filed challenging university building plans at and near the stadium, Barbour wrote, “We cannot let the plaintiffs’ actions or the preliminary injunction slow down our momentum for this first phase of Memorial Stadium renovation.” 

Vice Chancellor Ed Denton, who is directing the campus building program, told University of California Regents in December that the stadium building plans were critical because of the memories evoked in alumni. 

Unstated but implicit in the statement was the university’s reliance on donations for all new construction except for seismic renovations of existing buildings. 

The university plans to kill most of the trees along the stadium’s western wall to make room for the 142,000-square-foot, four-story gym. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller has halted plans for construction that had been slated to begin last month after legal challenges were raised to the massive Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and allegations were raised that the project breached state laws governing construction in earthquake hazard zones. The stadium itself is split by the Hayward Fault. 

The threat of earthquakes along the fault federal geologists say is the most likely source of the Bay Area’s next catastrophic quake was triggered anew Friday afternoon when a magnitude 3.4 quake rattled the campus at 3:46 p.m. A second, smaller quake—a magnitude 2.6 temblor—followed Saturday morning at 9:34. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quakes originated in the same spot as a series of recent quakes to rock the East Bay, the Hayward Fault less than 2 miles to the southeast of Memorial Stadium.