Police Send Up Water To Tree-sitters; Court Hearing Set for Monday

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 28, 2008 - 02:50:00 PM
A package of bottled water, provided by UC Berkeley police, is pulled up by tree-sitters Thursday.
By Richard Brenneman
A package of bottled water, provided by UC Berkeley police, is pulled up by tree-sitters Thursday.

Lawyers representing the treesitters at Memorial Stadium said Friday that UC Berkeley officials have agreed to provide food and water for arboreal protesters. 

Campus Police made their first water delivery Thursday afternoon following a sometimes heated parlay between the branch-borne activists and the university’s two top cops. 

Chief Victoria L. Harrison and Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, accompanied by an officer with a video camera, talked with protesters from their perch in a cherry-picker platform as the university’s community relations chief took notes in the shade of a tree below. 

At least 16 uniformed officers were on hand during the talk, which began with the tree-sitters reluctant to take anything from the officers. 

One of the tree-sitters accused the chief of giving the go-ahead to hired arborists to cut a support line while the protester was suspended in mid-air. “Are you trying to kill us?” he called out. 

But the talks continued, with supporters on the ground calling out support and taunting police. 

After the campus brass descended, Harrison and Celaya huddled briefly with Dan Mogulof, the campus executive director of public affairs, and minutes later the two officers, accompanied by a third officer toting a flat of shrink-wrapped bottled water, took up station beneath the tree in which the seven remaining tree-sitters had gathered. 

Two of activists had already descended from the branches Thursday evening after another talk with police, submitting to arrest as soon as their feet hit the ground. 

Doug Buckwald of Save the Oaks at the Stadium said the two had to attend to personal needs and hadn’t given up on the protest itself. 

The decision by the tree-sitters to accept water from campus police disappointed some of their supporters on the ground, in part because a decision hadn’t been reached collectively. 

“They’re trying to divide us,” said one. 

While Mogulof hadn’t flatly rejected providing water to the tree-sitters, he had repeatedly said that if they wanted food and water they were welcome to come down. 

City Councilmember Dona Spring, the tree-sit’s most vocal supporter on the council, had been calling for a resupply of the protesters, a call which had been joined by some of her council colleagues. 

The water sent up was provided by the university, said one campus official who declined to be identified by name. 

The water supply came one day before the university was to file its legal response to last week’s decision by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in a lawsuit protesters hoped would block construction of a gym at the site of the grove just west of Memorial Stadium. 

Judge Barbara J. Miller is scheduled to issue an order formalizing her decision, which challenged the approval process followed by the UC Board of Regents in approving the gym. 

Another venue 

Friday’s announcement from attorneys Carol Strickman and Bill Simpich followed an in-chambers meeting with university attorney Michael Goldstein in the chambers of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller. 

Following the session, Judge Keller told reporters, “They may want to talk to you about an agreement that’s been reached between the university and the treesitters.” 

But UC attorney Goldstein said he didn’t want to comment on anything that had been said in Keller’s chambers.  

“There were a lot of developments today,” said Simpich. “The purpose today was to get a court order that the university is not act to extract anyone from the trees, and we did get an understanding at the highest level from the university that they will not extract anyone. 

“However the attorney from the university said he has no knowledge of the agreement,” he added. 

The other understanding, he said, is that the university will provide food and water. 

“The tide’s already turned,” Simpich said, “and we are finally getting somewhere. We can protect the treesitters and all parties, including the university and the community, can step back and build trust.” 

Simpich said he was concerned because of behavior during the extraction of at least one sitter that he said constituted assault, and could have led to a charge of second degree murder had a tree-sitter fallen during the extraction. 

Millipede, who was taken down by university contract arborists during a controversial extraction last week, said she was assaulted during the event. 

Mogulof had said earlier that she had bitten an arborist during the extraction. 

The lawyers for both sides will be back in Judge Keller’s Hayward courtroom at 9 a.m. Monday.