Controversy Marks Tree-Sitter’s Arrest

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

Controversy over Monday’s arrest of an oak grove tree-sitter who came down after a death in the family sparked outraged among supporters of the 17-month-old Berkeley protest. 

Jeff Muskrat, who had sneaked into the grove near UC Memorial Stadium July 6 while campus police were busy trying to prevent supporters from sending up food, came down Monday after negotiations with officers. 

Ayr, a stalwart of the ground support team for the protesters, said he and others were outraged by the decision by Capt. Guillermo Beckford to ask for incarceration rather than a release following booking at Berkeley’s city jail. 

The officer was videotaped by a KRON TV camera operator, stating that police had no objections to citing the tree-sitter and then releasing him after a booking at the Berkeley city jail. 

According to Ayr, Beckford said he had “changed his mind” and asked for Berkeley police to process Muskrat for custody at the county’s Santa Rita Jail. 

But later Monday afternoon, university spokesperson Dan Mogulof said, “It’s been made clear to the people who are holding him that the university has no objection to his being cited and released,” which he said he expected to happen later in the day. 

“There has been some confusion,” Mogulof said, “but that has been cleared up” after a conversation with Assistant Police Chief Mitchell Celaya. 

Mogulof declined to comment on Beckford’s alleged statements to Ayr and others. 

Meanwhile, tree-sit supporters gathered Wednesday at the grove to stage an overnight sleep-in so they would be on hand should an Alameda County judge rule Thursday in favor of the university’s request to be allowed to begin immediate construction of the four-level gym complex they want to build on the site.