Foiled Berkeley Tree-Sit

by Steed dropout
Apr. 7, 2014


University police’s quick intervention has foiled a North side tree-sit demo in a Redwoods grove, a block from campus, two blocks from Cal’s football stadium, site of a million dollar tree-sit media circus.

The nearby stadium demo, which stalled construction of the stadium re-build for more than two years taught university cops to act quickly. Their nip-in-the-bud operation, Sunday, could well signal the end of tree-sits in Berkeley.

An attempt, recently, to maintain a tree-sit alongside a recent Post Office protest downtown failed, as did several tree-sits in People’s Park.

Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 52, organizer of the stadium demo was incommunicado and may be on the run. Ever since a recent forty-five day stay in county jail, he has been a marked man, hunted by at least one BPD cop and one university cop.

Redwood before. Photo by Ted Friedman.

One day after his release from county jail, recently, he was arrested on an outstanding bicycle ticket and hooks used to rig a tree-sit platform were confiscated from the tree which hosted the first People’s Park tree-sit, he told me.

The university cops’ op chopped the plans of tree-sitters protesting construction that includes removing an old-growth Redwoods grove next to Soda Hall.

Redwood after. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Police first became aware of a possible demonstration on Ridge Road, a four-block street, which contains theology schools and student apartments, when a lone protester showed up ten days ago with sign protesting the company behind, allegedly, the impending razing of an old-growth Redwood grove.

Connecting the dots, UCPD reacted quickly to avoid another stadium-like scenario.
“We learned about the tree sit through intel, investigation, and vigilance,” said Lieutenant Eric Tejada, speaking for UCPD by email Monday.

University cops responded, reportedly, by removing one recently installed tree-sit platform while a presumed tree-sitter was absent.

Cops ordered groundskeepers to saw-through ten Redwood branches so no one else could climb the tree.

The Tree-sit Tip-Off. Photo by Ted Friedman.

They then erected a barricade and assigned up to three officers to protect the barricade night and day. University police are determined not to see a repeat of the stadium fiasco. Nor do they want to re-live a tree-sit in People’s Park two years ago, which ended with a stabbing in a tree.

Further People’s Park tree-sits ended tragically (a broken back) or comically (when the tree-sitter left his limb, but returned as Charlie Chaplin and bragged he’d fooled the cops). Cops aren’t fooled these days and tree-sitters are not what they used to be.

The present generation of tree-sitter finds it difficult to remain on a limb. It comes and goes at will, as if in a hotel.

The first People’s Park tree-sitter, then fifty-three-year old Matt Dodt never left his limb without a replacement. He lasted two months before he was assaulted by two drunken park hooligans and “poked” one in the hand with a camping knife. Soon Dodt was charged with assault with a deadly weapon (quickly reduced). After numerous protracted hearings into lesser charges, during which he was jailed, Dodt was cleared of all but minor charges, but today is still under court-ordered restrictions.

Cops' vigil. Photo by Ted Friedman.

While he looks for work and cares for his girl friend’s cat, he’s doing food pick-up and delivery for Food Not Bombs, which feeds People’s Park. One of the terms of his probation, reportedly, is that he ‘obey all laws.’

A spokes person for Dodt said, “getting over-involved in tree sitting at this point would be risky.”

Dodt would hardly recognize tree-sitting these days.

Views expressed or implied here do not represent those in which my work appears.

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