Protesters Bring Tree Fight Home to UC’s Birgeneau

By Bay City News and Planet staff
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:23:00 PM

Campus police arrested six protesters Sunday after they  

planted an oak seedling on the lawn of the university’s chancellor Robert Birgeneau. 

The six were among a group of 50 who marched around 5 p.m. from the grove at Memorial Stadium, which the university plans to ax to make way for a four-story, $140 million high tech gym and office complex, to Birgeneau’s residence. 

Once at the chancellor’s house, located on the university’s  

campus, the group dug a two-foot round circle and planted the oak seedling, UC Berkeley police spokesman Mitch Celaya said. 

The seedling, once an acorn that fell from one of the oak trees in  

the grove, is about 6 inches tall and has been maturing for a year, Buckwald  


Campus police reportedly watched as the protesters secured the  

seedling in the ground, according to Buckwald. 

“UC Berkeley police were observing the activities but didn’t say  

anything,” Buckwald said. 

After the seedling was planted, UC Berkeley police arrested six  

protesters who police believe were “the main participants in committing this  

act,” Celaya said. 

While the protesters had intended to maintain a vigil to preserve the tree, “they escorted us to the edge of the campus where a female officer tore up the sapling,” said Zachary Running Wolf, one of the original tree-sitters who ascended the branches on Big Game Day in December 2006. 

Though Running Wolf—a Berkeley mayoral candidate—has been repeatedly arrested since the start of the protest, he wasn’t one of those arrested Sunday. 

Four protesters were arrested near the north gate entrance to the  

university, and two were arrested just east of the chancellor’s house,  

according to Buckwald. 

The six were arrested for vandalism, trespassing and  

misdemeanor conspiracy, Celaya said 

Among those arrested was Terri Compost, who has been a prominent supporter of the tree-sit and who also serves on the university’s People Park Advisory Board, and Beverly Dove, one of the group of grandmothers who have gathered food supplies for the tree-sitters. Dove was released after booking but the other five were held overnight in jail pending a Monday afternoon court hearing. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said he wasn’t able to provide a current count of arrests made since the grove protests began, but as of June 13, 92 arrests had resulted in some period of custody for the protesters.  

The march comes days after Alameda County Superior Court Judge  

Barbara Miller said she will try to rule as soon as possible on UC Berkeley’s  

request that she modify an injunction which currently prevents the university  

from building a new sports training center at the site of the oak trees. 

Miller issued the injunction Jan. 29, 2007, which bars the  

university from going ahead with its proposed $140 million, 158,000-square  

foot project. A UC Board of Regents committee approved building the training  

center Dec. 5, 2006, prompting protesters against the project to climb into  

the grove of oak trees that would need to be torn down in order for the  

project to be completed in an effort to stop the project. 

Protesters have been living in the trees since then, and others  

have gathered at the base of the trees to offer support to the tree-sitters. 

Between four and six protesters remained in the trees as of Monday,  

according to Buckwald. 

The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center has posted pictures of the planting and arrests at its website, www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/07/20/18518126.php. 


Tightwad Hill 

While one decision is near in the litigation that will determine the future of the grove, the university has reached a settlement in a second action which aimed to preserve the view from Tightwad Hill, so named for the fans who watch Cal Bears football for free from the slopes above the stadium. 

The spectators sued, charging that the university had failed to consider the impact on the hillside fans when it prepared its environmental impact report on proposed changes to the stadium itself—which include a raised bank of seating on the stadium’s eastern side that would block the view from much of the hillside. 

In reaching a settlement with the fans, the university agreed to confer with them before it adopts final plans for improvements at the stadium, according to the web page prepared by Mogulof and his staff at www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/06/stad-update.shtml.