Medical attention delayed
for tree-sitter in distres

tree sitter arrestMedical attention delayed for tree-sitter in distress

For Immediate Release—July 2, 2008
Memorial Oak Grove, Berkeley, California.  (Memorial Oak Grove is located just north of the intersection of Bancroft Way and Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley, near the International House).

Summary:  Dumpster Muffin, a young woman tree-sitter, did not receive prompt medical attention when she collapsed after descending from her tree platform at around noon today.   Also, three other tree-sitters descended from their tree platforms; two came down last night and one this morning.

Last night, three tree-sitters descended from the trees and dropped to the ground inside the fence without any advance notification to the ground support team or negotiations with UC Police.  One sitter (Drew Beres) headed towards the south part of the grove, and was quickly taken into police custody.  The other two (Pamela and Travis) evaded capture, and scrambled up into the branches of the redwood tree in the northern part of the grove.

* * *

The two tree-sitters in the redwood tree negotiated with police earlier today, and arranged to be taken into custody with the provision that they be taken to Berkeley City jail (not Santa Rita) and that they be cited and released.  At this time, I do not know if this agreement was honored.  These two sitters stated that one reason they left was to leave more food and water for the remaining sitters.  They also cited personal commitments as reasons for needing to depart.

At approximately 11 am today, a fourth tree-sit (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 (Dr.  Larry Bedard, a board-certified emergency physician) 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.

UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya refused to allow the doctor inside the grove, but did agree to allow LA Wood inside to film the event.   However, Celaya did stipulate that if it appeared that she needed medical attention, he would allow the doctor to enter the oak grove.

At around noon today, Dumpster Muffin climbed down from the platform.  As soon as she reached the ground, she was grabbed by UC Police, and they tried to put her in handcuffs.  She appeared wobbly, and collapsed to her knees in evident distress.  The police tried to pull her to her feet, but she collapsed again.  L A Wood called for the doctor to attend her, but Mitch Celaya refused to let the doctor enter the grove.

The ground support team, who had heard Celaya’s promise about this, yelled to him to allow the doctor in to see her.  They pleaded with Celaya for about five minutes, imploring him to keep his agreement.  He continued to refuse.  

According to Dr. Larry Bedard, “When the young woman fell to her knees the first time, the police should have immediately laid her down, elevated her legs, and administered first aid.  She should have had her pulse checked and blood pressure evaluated.  Instead, they lifted her back to her feet and dragged her along.  She collapsed twice more before they allowed any medical assessment.  This was clearly improper procedure.”

After Dumpster Muffin collapsed to the ground a third time, this alarmed the ground support team so much that Ayr marched to the police barricade on the sidewalk (at the south end of the grove, near the International House parking lot) and pulled open the metal barricade.  The doctor accompanied him inside the barricade.   Both were threatened with arrest by an officer posted there.  Ayr insisted that Mitch Celaya honor his agreement and allow the doctor to see Dumpster Muffin.  Dr. Bedard was then allowed to proceed into the grove.  The doctor administered first aid to Dumpster Muffin as she lay on the ground.

By that time, UC officials had called a paramedic ambulance service.   The paramedic (Jennifer) arrived and helped assist the fallen woman.  Both Dr. Larry Bedard and the paramedic recommended that she be taken immediately to Alta Bates Hospital, the closest emergency room.  Mitch Celaya overruled their recommendation.  He stated that she was to be sent to Highland Hospital, located further away in Oakland.

“The UC Police Department’s handling of this episode certainly calls into question their claim to put safety first,” said Doug Buckwald, Director of Save the Oaks at the Stadium.  “Their failure to follow standard first aid practices when the tree-sitter collapsed to the ground put her life at risk.”

Dumpster Muffin is currently at Highland Hospital undergoing evaluation.

It appears that Mitch Celaya insisted that Dumpster Muffin be transported to Highland Hospital because he believed that they have a jail ward in the emergency department there.  According to Dr. Bedard, they do not have such a facility, so there would have been no difference in the custody arrangements if the patient had been taken to Alta Bates, as he and the paramedic had originally recommended. 

Ayr, coordinator of ground support for the tree-sitters, stated, “Obviously the university’s decision to deny food and water to the tree-sitters is having harmful consequences, as is evident by what happened to Dumpster Muffin today.”

Press contacts:

  • Ayr (Tree-sitter spokesperson and eyewitness)
  • L A Wood (videographer and eyewitness) ***broadcast video is available of the arrest of Dumpster Muffin
  • Dr. Larry Bedard, (Board-certified emergency physician and eyewitness)
  • Doug Buckwald (Director, Save the Oaks at the Stadium)
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