UC's Memorial Stadium Oak Grove is No More; Four Defenders Remain in Lone Redwood

By Richard Brenneman
Sunday September 07, 2008 - 01:01:00 PM

Only one tree remained standing at Memorial Stadium Sunday morning of those the University of California had slated for the chainsaw.Perched in the upper branches of the redwood were the four remaining tree-sitters who had taken to the branches in an ultimately doomed effort to save the impressive collection of coast live oaks and other trees marked for destruction by the university. 

The last of the oaks had fallen by late Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday, piles of chipped wood marked the site of many of the trees felled to make way for the Student Athlete High Performance Center. 

The four-level gym and office complex is the first of three planned phases of construction at the stadium, and a state appellate court decision Thursday paved the way for the onslaught of chainsaws and heavy equipment that began work the next day. 

"Honestly, I have not yet come to grips with my grief over this," said Matthew Taylor, a Cal student has worked to support the treesitters since they first took to the branches on Dec, 2, 2006—Big Game Day. 

Taylor, like many of the activists, has earned a rap sheet from campus police. 

"I was arrested five times," he said, with the last coming late Saturday afternoon. He was cited for violating a stay-away order which would have expired at 8 p.m. 

"I would estimate there have been about 300 arrests and citations," said Ayr, a leader of tree-sit ground support who said he has spent about seven days in jail for his work at the grove. 

Ayr said that negotiations are underway with the university over the four remaining treesitters. 

"The tree-sitters are interested in a positive and peaceful resolution," he said. "We’re all trying to work toward that." 

University spokesperson Dan Mogulof said Friday that the university had given a previously negotiated 72-hour notice that day that action against the tree-sitters could come any time after Monday morning. 

Though forcible extraction remained an option, he said, "we will continue to explore every possible alternative." 

"If they come down, they want some kind of tangible and permanent result for the community," said Ayr. 

The scene at the stadium was quiet Sunday morning, with a few supporters on hand. A memorial and interfaith prayer ceremony was planned for 2 p.m. by Berkeley Grandmothers for the Oaks.