UC Berkeley Web Feature
Campus begins removing gear from tree-sitters' site outside Memorial Stadium
BERKELEY – In anticipation of an imminent court ruling on the construction of a new facility for student athletes at UC Berkeley, the university began early Tuesday morning (June 17) to cut cables and remove tree-sitters' gear and unoccupied structures just below Memorial Stadium, where protesters have been occupying a grove of oak trees for 18 months.
(Cathy Cockrell/NewsCenter photo)
The university is not attempting at this time to remove tree-sitters, some of whom are perched in perilously high branches of trees there.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller is scheduled to rule Wednesday, June 18, on a lawsuit seeking to block construction of the campus's new Student-Athlete High Performance Center at the site. Tree-sitters have occupied the grove since Dec. 1, 2006, hoping to prevent the campus from removing trees as part of the proposed construction project.
"While we will not be forcibly removing any of the protesters, we are moving to bring this illegal occupation of university property to a safe but certain end," said Mitch Celaya, UC Berkeley's assistant police chief. "We expect that today's action and future steps will make it far more difficult to sustain the protest. It is unfortunate that we have been forced to take this action, but the protesters leave us no choice." In October 2007, a judge ruled that occupation of the trees was dangerous and illegal.
"This is a dangerous, complex situation," campus spokesman Dan Mogulof told members of the press at the scene. "We have people up there who are using their own waste as weapons. So far, nobody has been hurt, nobody's fallen out of the trees, nobody's been taken out of the trees. We're going to continue to do this in the most careful possible manner."
Noting that Judge Miller will release her ruling Wednesday, the campus's vice chancellor for administration, Nathan Brostrom, said, "Everyone has now had their day in court. After tomorrow, we will either have the go-ahead from an impartial judge to begin construction, or the grove will remain under court-ordered protection."
Brostrom added that the university is committed to compliance with the court ruling "no matter what the outcome. In either case, it is time for this illegal occupation to end."
About 40 UC police officers, and a crew of privately contracted arborists, are involved in the action, which began this morning at about 6:30 a.m. Piedmont Avenue below Memorial Stadium is open, but protesters, onlookers, and members of the press are gathered at its margins. Motorists and pedestrians may want to choose an alternate route.
In addition, campus parking adjacent to the stadium is greatly limited during current operations. The new Underhill Lot, at College Avenue and Channing Way, has space available for displaced parkers.