Public Comment

Our Children Ask: Where Are the Safety Nets? Where Are the Negotiators?

By Anamaria Sanchez-Romero
Friday June 20, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

Our children were watching the evening news and saw the tree-sitters with the university police on the ground and the hired arborists up in the trees at the Memorial Stadium oak grove Thursday.  

They want the university fire officials to put up safety nets. It is just common sense, an 11-year-old, who plans to be a fireman, said.  

And why aren't there police negotiators who can best talk people down from harm? We have in the cities of Berkeley and Oakland excellent police negotiators for hostages, barricaded suspects and potential suicide emergencies who could be loaned to UC to persuade some of the sitters to safely come down.  

A 10-year-old asked that now the safety lines have been cut, why haven't the authorities put in place a safety net that fire and rescue workers use when people fall or jump from high-rise buildings during an emergency?  

What do our fire- and rescue-trained workers have to say about this oversight? We require nets and safety lines for circus acts, other sports, and for people threatening suicide.  

We fear for these young people who are tree-sitters. As they lack shade, water and food and restful sleep, they may not think clearly and could easily trip and fall three, four or five stories. Would such fall not be deadly?  

They are young, committed people and we should value their courage for their convictions whether we agree with their vision of the issue or not. We don't know if they have mental health problems or physical problems—we don't know anything about them and their families. They are, in their own way, citizen activists who have parents, brothers and sisters who must be worried for them. Friday will be dreadfully hot...dangerously hot for tree sitters perched in tree tops without shade, without water.  

We passed by there this late afternoon and saw the harsh militarized area—scores of police in black with hard SWAT regalia in the hot sun. Many tree branches have been haphazardly slashed and cut off—the hired arborists have been doing the demolition of the grove despite the no-action order by the court over a year ago. Little shade for heavily dressed police—no shade for tree people.  

So ugly, so unnecessary.  

It is so cruel to see a screaming woman in a perch frightened by two SWAT-type men in a picker box on a crane coming to get her. We saw this poor thing. And then the children and I saw her again on the television news. Our children asked why weren't the safety nets in place for her yet? Why was she being treated so cruelly? It could make her go crazy. Is this torture?  

Please, someone raise these questions on nets and discuss their use. Please ... UC Police ...bring in crisis-intervention negotiators. Perhaps some of the sitters will be persuaded to come home. Saving their lives is well worth it.