Former Tree-Sitter Critically Hurt During West Bank Protest

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:08:00 PM

A one-time Memorial Stadium tree-sitter remained in critical condition in an Israeli hospital, Wednesday, March 18, injured in a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank. 

Tristan Anderson, 38, was known as “Cricket” during the days he occupied a perch in the branches outside the UC Berkeley football stadium. 

Kate Raphael, a longtime friend who lives in San Francisco, said Anderson had traveled to Israel where his girlfriend was making a free “birthright” trip offered to young American Jews who want to visit the Jewish state. 

According to news accounts from the Associated Press and Ha’aretz, Anderson was struck in the face by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired during a protest against the controversial separation barrier at the village of Niilin, near Ramallah. 

“He’s in critical condition, and he still hasn’t regained consciousness,” Raphael said Friday. 

After he was injured, the Oakland resident was rushed to Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, where he underwent surgery for multiple skull fractures, according to published accounts. His condition was further complicated Tuesday when he developed pneumonia, Raphael said. 

“Fortunately they caught it in time,” she said.  

According to Ha’aretz, the media office of the Israel Defense Force said the demonstration site was a closed security zone, off-limits to protests. The military said demonstrators had thrown rocks at soldiers, prompting the use of tear gas. 

Raphael said she has known Anderson for eight years. The activist is an artist, and had been introduced to activism in his youth because of his concern for the environment, she said. “He felt it was very important to support the tree-sit,” she said. 

Raphael said she had first learned of Anderson’s injuries in a phone call from Israel Friday morning.  

“He’s really interested in archaeology and was excited about going,” Raphael said. 

Marcus Kryshka met Anderson 18 years ago when they were both doing homeless advocacy work in Berkeley. 

“He has worked extensively with Food Not Bombs,” Kryshka said. “He was also heavily involved with the tree-sit.” 

Anderson was one of the last six tree-sitters prosecuted by the university, but he won an acquittal at a jury trial. He did acknowledge liability in a second action in civil court for violating a court order barring protesters from living in the trees, and settled by agreeing to do community service, said his attorney, Carol Strickman. 

Kryshka said one of the reasons for his trip to Israel “was to engage in solidarity with the Palestinian protesters.” 

Anderson had called during the first week of March to talk about his trip and share his concerns about the violence of Israeli police and military response to the protests, said Kryshka, an Oakland carpenter. 

Anderson, who grew up in Grass Valley, had been working as a trade convention exhibit installer at the time of his trip. 

Cricket and two fellow tree-sitters wrote an account of their vigil for the Earth First! Journal, available online at www.earthfirstjournal.org. A video of the incident is available online at the website of Anarchists Against the Wall (awall.org). 

The incident has sparked several protests across the United States, including one outside the Israeli consulate in Miami that resulted in the arrest of Cara Jennings, a member of the Lake Worth City Commission, the equivalent of a city council. 

That incident is reported at the Photography Is Not a Crime website (carlosmiller.com).