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Tree-Sit Activists Plan Next Campaigns

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 11, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

Tuesday’s nine arrests—including the last four tree-sitters—cleared the ground, literally, for construction of the four-level gym and office complex that had been stalled for nearly two years by legal action. 

While UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison’s plan to raise a scaffold to reach and, if necessary, surround the tree-sitters resulted in their surrender Tuesday afternoon, it doesn’t mean an end to the activism of those who sat in the branches and supported them on the ground below. 

Amanda Tierney, a 21-year-old activist from Iowa, was already contemplating her next campaign Sunday, the day after 40 of the designated 41 trees destined for contractor chainsaws had been felled. 

Known by her treesitter name “Dumpster Muffin,” Tierney has been one of the more high-profile figures among the protesters, and she was already contemplating her next action. 

“There’re a few different areas around the country where actions are going on,” she said. 

Activists are still battling logging companies in Humboldt County in Northern California, and other activists have rallied to protest development of I-69, a new north/south highway route activists charge is designed to “to exploit the whole population of the country” by flooding the market with low-cost goods produced south of the border. 

“There’s a key junction in Indiana, and I’m from Ohio and I’ve lived in Indiana, so I feel close to that,” she said. 

But other protests would be fine, “as long as I’m living outdoors and I have a lot of free time.” 

A high school dropout who once planned a career in journalism “so I could expose social injustices,” she now says her only regret is that she didn’t drop out sooner. 

“I’m sorry we didn’t win this one,” said Ayr, known on his campus police rap sheet as Eric Eisenberg. 

Probably the highest-profile figure among the treesit ground supporters, he was repeatedly arrested or cited by police, “and I’ve spent about seven days in jail.” 

Ayr said the treesit wasn’t his first campaign as an activist, nor will it be his last. 

His goal Sunday was “to bring about a positive and peaceful resolution” to the treesit, with “some form of positive and tangible result for the community.” 

Matthew Taylor joined the campaign about six weeks after it started, working as a participant observer both to forward the goals of the protest and to gather material for his bachelor’s thesis. 

“I’m really curious how the oak grove will be memorialized,” he said. “So many different cultural communities care about the grove, and from so many different backgrounds. 

“The question is, what will be the legacy of the grove and the treesit?” 

Taylor was arrested five times during the campaign, that last time Sunday afternoon. 


The other side 

“I’m glad this is finally over,” said one campus policeman. “My girlfriend complains that she never gets to see me.” 

But for the officer, the extra hours had a silver lining in the extensive overtime he was accumulating. 

Campus Police Chief Harrison said Tuesday afternoon that approximately 45 university police were on hand for the final day of the treesit, along with a scaffolding crew of 20 to 25 workers, 10 tree removal contract workers, City of Berkeley firefighters and paramedics and crane operators. The cherry picker lifts were operated by university athletic department staff. 

Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya said that in addition to the arrests of the four treesitters, who range in age between 18 and 27, police arrested five spectators. 

The treesitters were Michael Schuck, 26, known first as treesitter Fresh and later as Shem. He was charged with a variety of charges including trespass, lodging in trees, violation of court orders and for five warrants totaling $22,000. 

Armando Resendez, Mando, is 20. He faced similar charges, though not the warrant violations. Ernesto Trevino, or Droog, is the youngest treesitter at 18. His charges are similar to those lodged against Schuck, as were those filed against the last treesitter to descend, Raul Colocho, 27, otherwise known as Huck or Huckleberry. He may face one additional charge. 

All of the treesiters were taken to the Santa Rita Jail, though Celaya said that each would be eligible for release on bail. 

The five spectators arrested include two who were charged with misdemeanor battery on a peace officer. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof estimated the cost of enforcement at the grove at more than $1.5 million.