Public Comment

A Failed Effort to Feed the Tree-Sitters

By Carol Gesbeck DeWitt
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 05:09:00 PM


Carol Gesbeck DeWitt 


750 words 


I was among a group of people who tried to bring fresh food to the UC Berkeley tree-sitters. I am a licensed vocational nurse and have spent my life taking care of people. I believe that it is immoral for the UC administration to use starvation as a claimed legitimate method to end a peaceful civil disobedience dispute with the tree-sitters. For the length of this tree-sit-in, Sunday at 2 p.m. has been the time when those in the community who support the goals of these people come together to provide balanced and healthy food. I don’t show up every week as some of the faithful have, but I consider myself to be a regular participant. 

For a number of reasons I believe that UC is wrong in their decision to build on this site: The campus provides other possible locations. The oak grove was not, as UC lies, a stadium-landscaping project; it was a memorial grove planted to honor nearly 100 students, faculty and staff World War I heroes. The last surviving WWI veteran, Frank Buckles, has written, requesting that this site remain. UC promises to replant even more trees. They are known for reneging on similar promises and it would take generations for new trees to reach the mature size of this grove. The proposed site is irrationally too close to the Hayward fault. Extensive construction processes on this site will further destabilize the aging stadium. Infrastructure and parking in this area are inadequate to meet the needs of such substantial building and user needs. Respect for the native Americans who believe that this hill was a sacred burial ground is lacking. When the stadium was built, Indian remains were unearthed and desecrated and it is reasonable to believe that this stadium-adjacent site is part of the burial grounds. UC appears to have an endless building construction agenda that will not stop until all available open campus space is occupied by a multi-storied buildings. UC administrators arrogantly believe that they are immune to local and state building and environmental regulations that the private sector must adhere to. UC has often demonstrated an unwillingness to negotiate openly and fairly with the Berkeley community when contested issues arise. 

Sunday’s failed attempt to deliver fresh food to the remaining tree-sitters was a very upsetting experience. UC deploys nearly two-dozen muscular, uniformed, armed, poorly trained and unprofessional cops to thwart humane attempts by gray haired citizens and slender younger people to deliver nutritious food. Weeks ago, UC installed more fencing and a wide barricade, illegally on public sidewalks, to prevent supporters access to providing food, water and waste removal services. This was also done to prevent supporters and media from having visual access to observe vicious UC attempts to harass and extricate the tree-sitters. Since then UC has been shamed into providing minimal, substandard, low quality, health-endangering food bars and an insufficient supply of water. 

It was very apparent that at least a handful of these bored cops take great pleasure in the opportunity, on Sundays, during food drop attempts, to exert aggressive, unnecessary and brutal force against a peaceful, dedicated, loving, generous, well-intended group of supporters. These frustrated, adrenalin- and testosterone-fueled, under-supervised bullies, vindictively operate meanly and aggressively. They seem to justify horrible actions that are badly misguided and devoid of basic humanity, ethics, integrity, morals, heart and soul. The kindly food drop group formed a circle around sacks of healthy food as one treesitter made repeated attempts to lower a rope from a precarious perch on a power pole. These cops devolved into mob mentality, not the peaceful supporters. They tightened their own circle around the supporters. The cops told citizens not to touch them, but the cops exerted force to crush against supporters when the line was lowered. The cops touched, pushed and knocked much smaller and frail, unarmed supporters down as they fought to grab and cut the rope. The cops’ behavior was a shameful display of inappropriately brutal force against harmless people attempting to provide humanitarian services. I urge more people to show up on Sundays at 2 PM to get involved as providers and witnesses. I urge UC administrators to rethink their hostile, inhumane and shameful ploys to end this peaceful tree-sit. UC is a disgrace to the American tradition of free speech and public discourse. 


Carol Gesbeck DeWitt is a Berkeley resident.