Berkeley Gains New Treesitter

By Richard Brenneman
Monday July 07, 2008 - 04:57:00 PM

Berkeley’s dwindling tree-sitter population notched up by one Sunday night just days after numbers had dwindled by four. 

The newest treesitter, Jeff, snuck up Sunday when campus police were otherwise occupied, finding an isolated perch far from the lone redwood which houses three or four people, according to tree-sit supporters. 

“Just a few minutes ago he climbed up another tree,” said Gabrielle Silverman, better known as the tree-sitter “Millipede” before she was snatched from the branches two weeks ago by contract arborists hired by UC Berkeley. 

“He lost his pack, but he’s now in a better location, though there’s a university police officer who has climbed up below him and is taunting him,” she said. 

Matthew Taylor, a stalwart supporter of the protest, said Jeff managed to make his way over the fence while police were focused on a public re-supply effort that ended with a lone balloon-borne Clif Bar making its way up to a treesitter. 

While one treesitter who had made his way to the top of an utility pole at the western edge of the grove managed to throw a line down to supporters, police were able to grab and cut it every time, Taylor said. 

Supporters made a concerted effort, forming a circle and linking arms, but to no avail, he said. One person on the ground was arrested, he said. 

Dan Mogulof, the university’s spokesperson on tree-sit issues, identified the arrested man as David Walden, 56. He was charged with battery of a police officer and resisting arrest and taken to Berkeley city jail for booking, Mogulof said. 

Last week ended the arboreal vigils of Dumpster Muffin and three other tree-sitters who abandoned their perches citing personal or health reasons.  

Mogulof said the newest tree-sitter told police he had come down from Oregon. “He told police he was not part of that other group but supported their end goal,” he said. 

Silverman said that while the university has been sending up food and water to the protesters, they had switched from Clif Bars to a less palatable Coast Guard ration that she described as “basically lemon-flavored flour.” 

Mogulof acknowledged that rations had been changed, but said the new supplies met all daily nutritional needs. 

Treesitters are protesting the proposed demolition of the oak grove west of Memorial Stadium—described as sacred and a possible Native American burial ground by protesters and “a 1923 university landscaping project” by Mogulof—to make way for a four-level gym and office complex. 

Arguments on a university court motion that seeks to clear the way for construction will be heard in a Hayward courtroom next week.