In the aftermath of "Amy Blue's" back-breaking twenty-foot plunge from a majestic tree in the latest tree-sit protest in People's Park last week, park regulars are attempting to affix blame; the usual suspects (cops and university) may include some unlikely suspects as well. Her fall abruptly ended an eight day protest that had been growing.
One of the unlikely suspects could be this reporter. I was on the scene moments after she fell previously (before breaking her back) and was caught in the arms of a friend who was singing, dancing and carrying-on at the base of the tree.
Amy seemed jovial and re-dedicated after the accident. Later, I joked about the dangers of tree-sitting with a university policeman and went so far as to make light of the situation by writing a fictional warning sign to be posted in the tree. All the time, I knew that she was at risk, but wouldn't tell the police for fear of snitching--or, perhaps I should say, being caught at it.
Running Wolf, the protest organizer, said, that if I reported "Amy's" first fall, the police would shut down the sit as unsafe. At that time I did not know that "Moon Shadow" had slipped off a limb and fallen before "Amy" joined him in the tree the next day. He was not injured.
If Running Wolf was right that reporting the falls would lead to a take-down, then I might have prevented Amy's injurious fall by either publicizing these falls or notifying the police.
But there's blame to share. Take Running Wolf.
Running Wolf at first resorted to his usual beef with the university. "If they returned the park to its rightful owners (Indians), this would not have happened." But isn't Running Wolf, an elder in the Blackfeet tribe, and the de-facto owner of "Camp Protest," an Indian property on a pricey lot at the North East corner of the park?
The usual rumor-mongers in the park blame the police. Rumor claims the police "tortured" the tree-sitters with their flashlights (as lights were used at Abu Ghraib) to disorient the park tree-sitters into falling. This despite the fact that halogen-strength searchlights were nightly trained on twenty-one tree-sitters at the two-and-a-half year tree-sit at Memorial stadium. No one fell
Hoping to shift the blame from me to the People's Park tree-sit organizer, I asked RW, "then why did you let them go up?"
"I felt it was important to gain the element of surprise," he said. "And it worked. I think it was a success."
I tried again. "But "Amy" was seriously injured, I noted.
"I feel bad about that," said RW. "In fact I confessed my guilt to my inner circle."
This wouldn't happen again, he promised. "I'll be more careful next time."
"I was also distracted by the Bart Demo," Running Wolf continued. (Aug. 22; he was arrested on the late-night (T.V.) news. Running Wolf went on to explain that, although he had re-rigged the tree-sit gear in the tree after "Amy's" first fall, he'd been out of touch.
While Running Wolf was out of touch, I watched the protest continue with its own goals, such as making People's Park a place of love, harmony, and celebration. A celebration was in progress at the base of the tree the afternoon "Amy" first fell from the tree into the arms of a celebrant below.
Running Wolf attempted to give me a crash-course in tree-sit rigging, which I barely understood. I can't even tie a square knot. The gist of RW's explanation was that he'd told the sitters, all in their mid-twenties, and with no tree-sitting experience, to tie themselves in at night. That was the practice at the Oak Grove protest, in which there were no serious accidents, even under more hazardous circumstances.
Running Wolf pointed out that although Moon Shadow, and he had bonded, Moon Shadow was resistant to any authority (in fact, he left the tree to just "walk around town").
"Matt (Dodt) was older and more committed. He was part of the support team at Oak Grove. He knew the rules," Running Wolf pointed out.
"In the final analysis," RW concluded, "I'm to blame. I accept full responsibility."
That lets me off the hook, but not the police. They talked a great deal to the tree-sitters and might have noticed the difference between them and more seasoned tree-sitters. They might have asked about the rigging or noticed that the platform was too small. ("We couldn't afford more wood", Running Wolf had said).
Perhaps this stretches the point. Still, there's plenty of blame to go around.
Who felled "Amy Blue?" Maybe she did. From failing to tie herself in. Maybes abound.
Ted Friedman reports to the Planet from People's Park.