Latest Failed People's Park Tree-Sit Portends Losing Streak

By Ted Friedman
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 09:46:00 AM
Eddie Miller at the top of  hundred foot evergreen in People's Park tree sit busted up last week.
Ted Friedman
Eddie Miller at the top of hundred foot evergreen in People's Park tree sit busted up last week.

We may need a baseball scorecard to keep up with the players. The Players: Little Bird, Grouse, and Eddie Miller (two strikeouts) seem headed for a losing season, after the most recent failed protest. 

The latest strikeout was as colorful as any baseball rhubarb. 

I spotted Miller ten days ago with his girlfriend over coffee at the Cafe Mediterraneum. 

He had apparently left his tree-sit platform unattended high in a towering evergreen with a view of the People's Park stage, and a picnic bench below, where his supporters could gather. 

I asked Miller, "who's in the tree," and he mumbled, "someone's covering it." 

Recent tree-sitters come and go at will these days, unlike their hardy predecessors whose sits ended in a stabbing, and a plunge from a limb to a broken back. 

After an hour in the Med, Miller returned to the empty tree, only to be blocked by a park worker, who took control of Miller's climbing rope. When Miller tried to get his girlfriend to hoist him, she refused—for Miller's safety. 

That caused a lover's quarrel, and then a beef with a supporter over Miller's computer. Miller then sucker-punched the supporter, according to the participants themselves. The park worker called university police; Miller and the others fled. 

Police later removed the platform and rigging. 

Miller's tree sit lasted less than three days. The first day had augured well with Eddie descending to a lower limb to chat with his followers on a warm, sunny day in the park and planning a media campaign to get his message out. 

The original tree-sit spruce stood nearby with twenty amputated limbs as grim reminder of the university's war with the tree-sitters. Running Wolf said he could still rig to the denuded landmark. 

But the reality did not match Running Wolf's diagram optimism, and Miller wound up in the evergreen, bringing him more into the center of the park, away from the outer fringe with access to passing students. 

A week earlier, Miller's vacant platform had come down during his absence, when a vocal opponent of the sits cut the rigging ropes, felling the platform, and made off the with the rigging equipment and platform. 

What is to become of these tree-sits, which are unpopular in the park because they are thought to bring more police than usual? 

The tree-sit organizer Running Wolf's many critics accuse him of trying to re-live his glory days as the organizer of the longest urban tree sit in North America—Oak Grove, Memorial Stadium, five years ago. But Running Wolf seems undaunted. 

At a recent Food Not Bombs free meal in the park, Miller told me he has disassociated himself from Running Wolf, whom he accused of inadequate supervision and support. 

The two are not speaking. 

Miller told me "ll go up in the tree when I feel like it, and I'll come down when I feel like it." 

"Where will you get the platform and rigging?" I asked. 

"I'll just stay in the limbs," he said. 

He'd better find some way to tie in, past experience shows; when Amy Blue didn't tie into her platform she plunged twenty feet to the ground and a broken back. 

Miller wants the university to permit him to camp in lower Strawberry Canyon, near the university Hillside graduate housing units on upper Dwight Way. 

He has put his "demand" in a letter to one of the university's chancellors, who has not responded after weeks, he says. Miller wants permission to camp on university property while across from Dwight and higher up in Strawberry, illegal campers are eluding police, according to my ongoing investigation. 

Miller, claiming a B.S. in Economics and Philosophy from Boston University, owns the distinction of using his name, not a moniker, and hails from Boston—somewhere other than "the planet," as a previous sitter had claimed. 

Miller is the first tree sitter to acknowledge owning his own tree-house as a kid, his only previous tree-sit experience. Active in Oakland and SF Occupations, and occasionally attending Occupy Berkeley general assemblies, Miller, 23, is interested in sustainable farming. 

He'd like to study horticulture at the graduate level in Costa Rica. 

Ted Friedman, a near to People's Park resident, reports from the sultry South side.