At the latest evacuation of campers Monday from Oakland's Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, the epicenter of Occupy Oakland, a lone protester was able to escape the police evacuation.
Maybe that's because he was up a tree.
The lone protester was Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 48, a native of Berkeley, a recently announced Berkeley mayoral candidate, and an elder in the Blackfeet tribe of Montana. With his latest,protest, Running Wolf takes his candidacy to new heights.
Saying he won't descend, until Oakland "co-operates" with the occupation of Ogawa Plaza, Running Wolf has settled in for another record-breaking tree-sit.
Berkeleyans may recall the media madness that was the Oak Grove tree protest, Dec. 2006 to Sep. 2008, the longest urban tree-sit in North America. Running Wolf organized and ran the controversial protest.
Sensing, Saturday night, the impending clearing of the plaza (there had been several orders to vacate the encampment), Brown went up a forty foot tree to rig two platforms, occupy the tree, and await events on the ground.
When police removed the tent encampment early Monday, Running Wolf was already installed in the tree.
By Tuesday, Running Wolf was receiving admiring visitors, offering political advice, and receiving so much food--passed up by rope in a canvas shoulder bag--he had to decline some of it.
Police with point and shoots joined tourists with point and shoots. The scene was almost festive.
The lone vigil in a tree, at 14th and Broadway, adjacent to the plaza, had been contemplated for several weeks, according to Running Wolf--perhaps in response to a failed tree-sit in People's Park last month which involved Indian tricks, an Eagle feather, and evil spirits.
The failed People's Park tree sit, the seventh in two years and the third since January, may have fallen victim to evil spirits.
In January it was a stabbing that ended the protest, and a few months later an inexperienced tree-sitter plunged from a tree and broke her back, as reported in the Planet.
The latest failed People's Park protest was perhaps the most bizarre. Littlebird, self-styled "poet in a tree," apparently was talked out of the tree, after more than an hour of sweet talk with a university policeman, ending the struggling protest. This was the first time a cop in People's Park had been so successful in ending a tree-sit.
Running Wolf, accepting full responsibility for mismanaging the tree-sits, vowed to fight on. "We've had seven tree sits in People's Park, and we'll hold many more," he boasted recently. "We like sitting in trees. That's what we do," he added.
To see him lounging on his platform Tuesday giving pep talks to the crowd, you'd think trees were home to him--like Tarzan.
But where did Tarzan go wrong when Littlebird went AWOL?
The whole story becomes curiouser. See, it wasn't Littlebird who walked out of the tree, according to Running Wolf. Littlebird had left the tree earlier, because he had said from the start he'd only sit for a few days. Running Wolf admitted he was busy with Occupy S.F.--where he made the evening news--and had failed to provide Littlebird a stand-in.
And we still haven't got to the Eagle feather, and Indian medicine rituals.
According to Running Wolf, he was coffee-ing at the Cafe Mediterraneum, where he is popular with the owner, who wants to rid People's Park of people like Running Wolf, when a friend rushed in to say police were trying to talk to Littlebird in the tree. Only Littlebird wasn't there, (unknown to police, no one was there) and that if they learned Littlebird wasn't there, they'd pull down the platforms.
Rushing to the scene, Running Wolf, deployed an old Indian trick. He pretended to be talking to Littlebird, who had flown the coop, as two UCPD officers looked on. Now Running Wolf had to act fast. He had enlisted a Littlebird replacement, Sun Shadow, at Occupy S.F., but needed to coax him some more.
A 12 string guitar, from a donor in Oakland was offered, on loan, to Sun Shadow (a guitarist) as incentive. Don't call it a bribe. But Running Wolf attached an Eagle feather to the guitar strap to ensure the guitar would be returned.
As Running Wolf instructed me, "Eagle feathers always come back."
If only Sun Shadow had not succumbed to reason. According to the U.C.P.D. officer who out-reasoned Sun Shadow in a sweet-talk dialogue lasting more than an hour, Shadow believed the tree he was occupying was slated to be felled. No way, argued the officer, and if you come down you won't be cited. You can walk away. Sun Shadow walked, and university police confiscated the riggings and platforms.
But Running Wolf sees this as a victory because Sun Shadow returned the guitar and the Eagle feather.
"The Eagle feather came back," Running Wolf laughed, and "that's a win."
Just another action in the busy schedule of the P.T. Barnum of Bay Area protest.
Running Wolf had recently returned from his Blackfeet reservation in Montana, a momentous visit in which he "dropped medicine," an Indian ritual not to be confused with dropping acid, hoping to overcome an Occupy Oakland decision to ban tree-sitting.
"We needed to elevate," after all the eviction threats at Ogawa, Running Wolf said Tuesday.
But instead of elevating, RW, as he is called by friends (or just Zach), spent seven days in some hoosegow near Yellowstone National Park on a car tail-light beef that escalated. The car belonged to a friend.
It took the intervention of Tony Serra, a well-known S.F. civil liberties attorney, to spring RW. Back at his Medhead haunt on Telegraph, RW was at his up-beat best, but the friend who had accompanied him to the rez was visibly shaken by the ordeal.
Installed in his latest high-visibility tree-house Tuesday at Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, RW is back on top.
Indian medicine can be empowering.
Ted Friedman will travel to Oakland for South side stories, as necessary, especially to take a break from Occupy Berkeley.