Updates on Memorial Oakgrove Siege

dumpster muffin
Berkeley Authorities Take Tree Sitter to the Hospital

One of four protesters who have left their perches at a grove of oak trees near the University of California, Berkeley's football stadium in the last 15 hours is being treated for medical problems at Highland Hospital in Oakland, according to university spokesman Dan Mogulof.

Mogulof said 21-year-old Amanda Tierney, known as "Dumpster Muffin," descended from the grove of trees about 1:45 p.m. today after she told campus police officers that she was suffering from an undisclosed medical problem.
He said officers assured her that she would receive immediate medical care. Once Tierney was on the ground "she appeared to be in distress," Mogulof said. Protesters have been living at the grove of trees since Dec. 5, 2006, when a UC Board of Regents committee approved building a training center next to the football stadium. The project calls for tearing down the trees.

The project has been on hold since Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued a preliminary injunction against it in January of 2007. Miller issued a mixed ruling on the case two weeks ago and will have another hearing on July 17.
Doug Buckwald, a spokesman for the tree protesters, said Tierney "experienced medical difficulties" about 11 a.m. and asked that a doctor she trusted, Dr. Larry Gedard, a board-certified emergency room physician, be allowed to meet her at the bottom of the tree when she descended.

But according to Buckwald, UC-Berkeley Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya refused to allow Gedard inside the grove and only allowed Gedard to help Tierney after she collapsed on the ground several times.tree sitter in cuffs

She was reportedly taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland for treatment. Some of the remaining protesters at the oakgrove began coming down June 24, and university police spotted three tree protesters on the ground about 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to Mogulof.

Mogulof said one of them, 19-year-old Drew Beres, was immediately apprehended on the ground but the other two ascended a nearby tree. He said those two protesters, Pamela "Olive" Zigo, 19, and Travis "Bird" Richey, also 19, had a two-hour talk with Celaya this morning and agreed to come down about 12:25 p.m. today.
The university agreed to let the protesters make a video statement to videographer L A Woo (Berkeley Citizen), who is recording the events at the grove of trees, according to Mogulof. Mogulof said Beres was charged with violating his probation, violating a court order and trespassing. He was taken to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and released.

Zigo and Richey were both charged with trespassing and violating a court order and were taken to the Berkeley city jail and released, Mogulof said.

Once Tierney is healthy enough to be processed, she will be charged with trespassing and violating a court order, according to Mogulof. He said she could be released pending a police review of other possible charges and outstanding warrants.
The university's best estimate at this point is that only three protesters are left in the trees, Mogulof said. "We are pleased that our approach seems to be working as we move a few steps closer to a safe but certain end to this situation," Mogulof said.
The university will continue to communicate with the remaining three tree protesters and "will continue to supply them with essential daily supplies of food and water," Mogulof said. Buckwald said Zigo and Richey said one reason they decided to come down was so that more food and water would be left for the remaining tree protesters. He said they also cited personal commitments for their decision to leave.

Fourth protester occupies a tree at UC Berkeley
By Kristin Bender, Oakland Tribune, July 7, /2008

BERKELEY — A fourth protester was occupying a tree Monday in an oak grove where three remaining tree sitters were living near UC Berkeley's memorial stadium.
University spokesman Dan Mogulof said the man  who has not been identified  climbed into the tree late Sunday afternoon. He told university officials that he is "not part of the other group," Mogulof said.
Save the Oaks at the Stadium spokesman Doug Buckwald said the man, who goes by Jeff and is in his 30s, is outside the first chain link fence erected to keep protesters out, but inside the second fence. The university erected two fences last year to control protesters at the site.

"He's there to support the cause of the oak trees and why they need to be protected," Buckwald said. "He's interested in doing what he can to fight the good fight."
Mogulof said the new protester won't likely be there long. He may not have many supplies and is isolated from the others, he said.

This isn't the first time a single person has climbed into a university tree in support of the now 18-month tree-sit to protest the university's plans to build a $140 million sports training center at the grove. In May, a man named Michael Schuck, 23, climbed into a tree on Sproul Plaza and sat there for about three weeks to support the tree-sit and other causes. He eventually came down.

Meanwhile, the three remaining tree sitters, who are in one redwood, are receiving water and some food from the university. But the university is still refusing to allow ground supporters to provide extra food and water.

Sunday afternoon, about 50 supporters of the tree sitters came to the grove to try and provide supplies, Buckwald said.

Supporters put bags of food in the middle of a circle of people, and the tree sitters tossed a rope the ground, hoping to lift the bags to their tree. Police refused to allow this. One person floated a helium balloon with some light snacks attached to a string to the tree sitters, Buckwald said. People have routinely floated handfuls of Fruit Loops, cheese puffs and other stacks on balloon strings to tree sitters.

(SEE: UC Police Step Up Violence at the Berkeley Oak Grove 02:30 Bcitizen@YouTube Berkeley CA July 6, 2008)

Mogulof said university officials prevented the supporters from providing the supplies because they have a court order barring the tree sitters from being in the tree. "We're just enforcing the law," Mogulof said.

When food was not allowed up into the tree, there was a skirmish between protesters and police and one man, David Walton, 56, was arrested for battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, Mogulof said.

Videographer L A Wood said this was the third Sunday in a row that tree sitters have been denied food by outside groups. "The community has seen an increase in UC police violence at the endangered oak grove," he said in a statement. "This aggression has even been directed at many of the Grandmothers for the Oaks, a group that has been supplying the tree-sit each Sunday afternoon since Thanksgiving Day last year. Several of their elderly members were knocked to the ground during the three-hour confrontation with the campus police."

Buckwald said he is concerned that the tree sitters won't get enough water over the next few days, which are forecasted to be hot. "Water will be the big issue for everyone the next few days," he said.

Building the sports training center is on hold until at least July 17 when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara will have a hearing on the lawsuits that were filed and tried in court to stop the training center.

Protesters arrested at Cal stadium grove as crowd awaits court ruling
Charles Burress, Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2008

BERKELEY -- About 200 people rallied on the ground below a tree-top encampment of protesters in a grove of trees next to Memorial Stadium this afternoon in the hours before a judge was expected to rule on the fate of an athletic training center planned for the site.

Two of the protesters were arrested, while workers hired by UC Berkeley dismantled more of the tree-sitters' roost, cutting ropes, removing supplies and tearing out improvised structures.

By early afternoon, most of the protesters' ropes were gone, and one of two large platforms high in the trees toppled to the ground.

The year-and-a-half-old tree protest is being staged to stop UC's plan to cut 44 trees to make way for an athletic training center expected to cost at least $125 million. A judge is to rule today on three lawsuits seeking to halt the project.

Stephen Fiorenza, 23, was arrested this afternoon for vandalism after officials said he cut a plastic tie linking barricades separating police from protesters at the grove. The move allowed another man to slip past the barricade, climb a utility pole and slide along a rope to a tree - to the cheers of supporters below.

Shortly after that, protester Matthew Gillam-Lewis, 22, was arrested after he tried to grab a cutting tool from the hands of an arborist on the other side of a barricade. Other protesters charged officers making the arrest.

UC police, meanwhile, released the name of one protester who was arrested Tuesday after being plucked by two of the workers from a rope in the grove. Gabrielle Silverman, 19, was arrested at 4:24 p.m. for investigation of assault, battery, resisting arrest, providing false information, trespassing and refusing to leave, police said.

She bit the arm of an arborist who was trying to attach duct tape to one of the ropes. The arborist and a co-worker wrestled her into a cherry-picker and handed her over to police, said UC spokesman Dan Mogulof.

L A Wood, a former city environmental commissioner, said the cherry-picker bumped up against the woman and the workers grabbed her. "I would say she is typical of those in the grove - young, caring and, given what they've been through, courageous".

Mogulof said the worker was attacked as he worked on a rope and that seizing the woman was not part of the crew's original scope of work. He said workers have been instructed not to interact with the protesters unless they are acting in self-defense.

Workers and police were pelted several times by human urine and excrement thrown by tree-sitters Tuesday, Mogulof added.

An estimated eight to 12 protesters remain in the trees.
Both sides in the prolonged dispute are awaiting an expected ruling today by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller on lawsuits by the city of Berkeley, a nonprofit tree group and stadium neighbors.

Opponents of the UC training center claim the site is unsafe because the Hayward Fault runs under the stadium. They also seek to protect the trees and urge that the training facility be built elsewhere.
In one of several tense moments this morning, a basket with two workers was lowered by crane to the trunk of a tall tree on top of which a young woman was perched on a small wooden platform about 100 feet in the air.

The woman, identified by sympathizers as Dumpster Muffin, screamed and violently shook the precarious perch. The crane backed off and woman raised her hand in the air in a sign of victory.
Crowds of onlookers gathered along sidewalks and on a closed section of Piedmont Ave. to watch the continuing drama.

"I've lived here my whole life, and I've never seen anything this wild," said UC employee Syreeta Shepherd.

Correction: The above story incorrectly reported that a tree-sitter arrested June 17 at UC Berkeley was identified by campus police and officials as Marisa Schneidman. UC police later acknowledged they made a mistake and that the arrested tree-sitter was not Schneidman. It was Gabrielle Silverman.

New Developments at U.C. Berkeley's Memorial Oak Grove

Indybay: East Bay July 3 2008

Some Berkeley Tree Sitters Leave Trees
On June 29th, Berkeley community members, and supporters of the tree-sit at U.C. Berkeley's Memorial Oak Grove attempted to re-supply the tree-sitters with food and medical supplies. The U.C. police, however, blocked all attempts to provide food and medication.

On July 1st, two tree-sitters in a redwood tree negotiated with the UC police, and arranged to be taken into custody with the provision that they would be taken to Berkeley City jail (not Santa Rita) and that they would be cited and released. Another tree sitter, (Dumpster Muffin, the woman who had stood on the small platform during the recent crane incident) experienced medical difficulties.

She requested that a doctor she trusted be allowed to meet her at the bottom of the tree when she descended to the ground. She also requested that a local videographer, LA Wood, be allowed inside the grove to film the event. The request was partially granted ; only Wood was allowed to enter, but it was promised that medical attention would be provided if Muffin looked sick. When Muffin climbed down from the tree, she was grabbed by the police, and although she collapsed a couple of times, no medical attention was allowed to reach her.

UC, Tree-Sitter Clashes Continue in Court, Grove
Richard Brenneman, Berkeley Daily Planet, July 03, 2008

Attorney William Simpich listens as colleague Carol Strickman responds to a comment by Judge Richard Keller during Monday’s hearing on their request for an order to protect tree-sitters and for the university to provide them with food and water. It’s been a week of tense confrontations between UC Berkeley and the tree-sitters occupying the grove where the university wants to build its showcase high-tech gym.

The head-to-head sessions took place both at the grove and in two Hayward courtrooms, with some of the same faces appearing in all three venues.

Meanwhile, three treesitters opted to end their vigils Wednesday. The activists who call themselves Olive and Dumpster Muffin, joined by a third, unnamed male, came down from the tree.

Ayr, a key figure in organizing ground support for the protesters, said Dumspter Muffin came down to seek medical attention, while the other two had personal reasons for descending from the branches.

“They also said they realized that because of their actions there would be more food for those who remain,” Ayr said. Asked how many still occupy the branches, Ayr replied, “Three to five.”

The first face-off happened on June 26 during a sometimes heated parlay between the branch-borne activists and the university’s two top cops, Chief Victoria L. Harrison and Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya.

Accompanied by an officer with a video camera, the two talked with protesters from their perch in a cherry-picker platform as Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director of public affairs, took notes in the shade of a tree below.

At least 16 uniformed officers were on hand during the talk, which began with the tree-sitters reluctant to take anything from the officers.

One of the tree-sitters accused the chief (presumably not Mogulof) of giving the go-ahead to hired arborists to cut a support line while the protester was suspended in mid-air. “Are you trying to kill us?” he called out.

But the talks continued, with supporters on the ground calling out support and taunting police.

After the campus brass descended, Harrison and Celaya huddled briefly with Mogulof, and minutes later the two officers, accompanied by a third officer toting a flat of shrink-wrapped water bottles, took up station beneath the tree in which the seven remaining tree-sitters had gathered.

Two of activists had already descended from the branches Thursday evening after another talk with police, submitting to arrest as soon as their feet hit the ground.

Doug Buckwald of Save the Oaks at the Stadium said the two had to attend to personal needs and hadn’t given up on the protest itself.

The decision by the tree-sitters to accept water from campus police disappointed some of their supporters on the ground, in part because a decision hadn’t been reached collectively. “They’re trying to divide us,” said one.

While Mogulof hadn’t flatly rejected providing water to the tree-sitters, he had repeatedly said that if they wanted food and water they were welcome to come down.

City Councilmember Dona Spring, the tree sit’s most vocal supporter in city government, had been calling for a resupply of the protesters, a call which had been joined by some of her council colleagues.

The water sent up was provided by the university, said one campus official who declined to be identified by name.

Tree court

The next set-to came in the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller, where two lawyers representing the tree-sitters sought a new court order protecting the protesters.

Bill Simpich and Carol Strickman, opposed by UC staff attorney Michael Goldstein, met with the judge for a closed-door session in his chambers.

Following the session, Judge Keller told reporters, “They may want to talk to you about an agreement that’s been reached between the university and the tree-sitters.”

But UC attorney Goldstein said he didn’t want to comment on anything that had been said in Keller’s chambers.

“There were a lot of developments today,” said Simpich. “The purpose today was to get a court order that the university not act to extract anyone from the trees, and we did get an understanding at the highest level from the university that will not extract anyone. However the attorney from the university said he has no knowledge of the agreement.”

The other understanding, Simpich said, was that the university will provide food and water.

“The tide’s already turned,” he said, “and we are finally getting somewhere we can protect the tree-sitters, and all parties, including the university and the community, can step back and build trust.”

The water delivery came a day before the university was to file its legal response to last week’s decision by an Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller in a lawsuit that protesters hoped would block construction of a gym at the site of the grove just west of Memorial Stadium.

Later this month Judge Miller is scheduled to issue an order formalizing her decision, which challenged the approval process followed by the UC Board of Regents in approving the gym.

Grove again

The focus shifted back to the grove Sunday, where tree sit supporters had organized another rally and yet another effort to send supplies up to the trees.

While the crowd was smaller than the confrontation that had momentarily breached the police perimeter the week before, this time one of the tree-sitters emerged atop a utility pole with a line ready to throw down to the crowd below which had supplies waiting on the lawn of the Anthropology Building just across Piedmont Avenue from the grove.

But after a meeting between UCPD Capt. Guillermo Beckford and supporters who included Gianna Ranuzzi, attorney Strickman, Matthew Taylor and L A Wood, police agreed to accept four bags of food the next morning.

Despite the pleas of supporters, Beckford said the supplies would be limited to packaged goods, with no fresh fruits and vegetables allowed.

The food was delivered later in the day, Mogulof said. (Note: bags were not sent up to the tree sitters. Berkeleycitizen)

“That’s a flat-out lie,” Ayr said Wednesday. Though police allowed some medical supplies to go up—hydrogen peroxide and wipes—the only food item to reach the tree-sitters was a single chocolate bar, he said.

Back to court

The lawyers returned to Judge Keller’s Hayward courtroom Monday morning, and by the time the session had ended, the judge had ordered the University of California not to endanger the lives of Berkeley’s tree-sitters Monday but refused to order the university to give them food and water, saying they could get those simply by obeying his restraining order and coming down from the trees.

The one concession won by the tree-sitters was Keller’s order that “the university shall take such precautions as are reasonably needed to prevent endangering the lives or safety of others.”

But, the jurist said, he wasn’t ordering food and water because “that is something totally and completely within” the control of the tree-sitters.

Keller’s ruling came after attorneys Simpich and Strickman had presented declarations from several tree-sitters and a video which they said showed that a tree-sitter’s life had been endangered after university arborists cut his support line.

Goldstein countered that the treesitter—who appeared to be hanging on by one hand—was actually supported by another rope, and said campus police reported that the protester said he was also carrying a bottle of urine.

But campus officials “don’t need to take aggressive conduct when they can take less aggressive conduct,” the judge said, adding, “I will become more aggressively involved if the university takes any action that endangers” the lives of the protesters.

But he rejected Simpich’s argument that denial of food and water, which the lawyer said could cause effects that could lead to lack of judgment that could endanger the tree-sitters, was something that should be included in his order.

Of the list of incontrovertible facts he cited the university’s right to control its own property was foremost, followed by the refusal of the tree-sitters to obey orders he had issued previously calling on them to vacate the trees.

Judge Keller said another uncontested fact was that the lives of tree-sitters had been endangered when they moved to challenge the university’s removal of their gear, including lines used to move from tree to tree above the ground.

Simpich had argued that denial of food and water was tantamount to torture and compared to the tree-sitters to prisoners. But Judge Keller said the analogy was false because tree-sitters weren’t prisoners and were free to come down any time they wanted.

But he said that as a result of viewing the video, “I am not trying to invite the university to go up there and cut the ropes people may be hanging onto.”

Gabrielle Silverman (“my tree-sitter name is millipede”) sat in court for Monday morning’s hearing. She was the first treesitter forcibly extracted from the branches last Tuesday.

“I’m very disappointed in the judge,” she said. Asked what she planned to do next, the tree-sitter answered, “What do we do now? We keep giving them hell.”

Silverman said she was threatened by the arborists the university hired to restrict the movements of the protesters, whose numbers have dwindled in the last week.

“She was extracted right after the university said they wouldn’t be taking anyone down from the trees,” Simpich said. “It was done in a violent way, ramming her and then cutting her line so that she fell onto their platform.”

Goldstein declined to comment after the hearing. “We’ll keep fighting the fight,” Simpich said, not ruling out a possible appeal of Monday’s decision, a move foreshadowed by his request for a partial transcript of the day’s courtroom action.

Another venue

It was a different set of lawyers who appeared in Judge Miller’s Hayward courtroom Tuesday morning, the same four stalwarts who had conducted last year’s lengthy battle over the legality of the UC Board of Regents’ approval of the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP).

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