Bad Tip: No Berkeley Tree-Sit

by Steed Dropout
April 26, 2014


Misty. Photo by Ted Friedman.

It was a beautiful night for a tree-sit at U.C. Light drizzle–artificially lighted–dazzled campus. Campus sprinklers swizzled misty swirls, wasting water in a drought year. Students were drunkenly drifting away from a hip-hop concert at Sproul Plaza. Some were making up hip-hop of their own.

Sproul concert. Photo by Ted Friedman.

It was a beautiful night for a tree-sit. A tree-sit made all kinds of sense. The campus was bristling with activity. Tree-sitters needed this tree-sit to show they were not permanently grounded after campus cops had foiled their last tree-mount.

In Memorial Glade, there was a small gathering for Armenian “holocaust” day.

Armenian Memorial. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The water-guzzling sprinklers misted the evening. What better than a tree-sit to add to the excitements of a campus drenched in warm mist.

There was absolutely no good reason for a tree-sit except as payback for being nipped in the bud on Ridge Road last week, when cops dismantled a tree-sit platform and Soda Hall officials wasted no time slicing, dicing, and gutting a 12 tree old-growth Redwood Grove.

I had been tipped that a sit, protesting Ridge Road, would go down ( up?) on campus in two days. I had envisioned the pictures I’d get when the platform was raised, when the first tree-sitter ascended, when the cops came with a cherry-picker truck to remove the sitter, and when the platform was splintered into rubble.

So what if I didn’t get my shots? There were plenty of photo ops on campus. I arrived on campus, Thursday, early for the 10p tree-sit. It was unseasonably warm before the drizzle. I left my coat behind.

Keeping to a half-mile course from Bancroft Way to Hearst, I passed Sproul, the Campanille, and Bancroft Library, looking for familiar faces from past demos, but found no one. Veering from my North-South course, I explored several side paths, shining my flashlight into the tree-tops, looking for a tree-sitting platform.

I discovered at least fifty tree-sitting locations, all magnificent trees. Even without the downed Redwood grove on Ridge-Road, Cal is trees.

What purpose, anyway, would a tree-sit on campus serve? The Redwood tree grove was gone–mulched. Had this tree destruction been, from the start, mulch ado about nothing? The two and a half year Oak Grove tree-sit at Memorial Football stadium, 2006-2008 protested disruption of buried (sacred) Indian bones. What was sacred about the chopped trees on Ridge Road?

The mulched Ridge Road Redwoods had to make way for an addition to Soda Hall (computer sciences building); it’s one thing to oppose a liberal university over buried remains, but another to oppose a bunch of computer geeks who rule planet earth, hack (or leak) by hack.

Soda Hall has been described as “an extremely famous building which facilitates UC Berkeley’s computer science classes and offices.” Now it was famous for killing old trees.

Cops protecting Soda Hall from protesters. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Three well-staged recent demonstrations in Berkeley were by strong labor unions, representing its rank-and-file. Who did tree-sitters represent?

Photo by Ted Friedman.

I walked by U.C. police station looking for signs of activity, looked for buses ready to transport protestors to jail, but found none and not much else to signal increased readiness. Cops made a point of staying away from hopped-up student hip-hoppers.

Shots of students beckoned.

Wet grass gymnastics. Photo by Ted Friedman.
Hip-Hop hangover. Photo by Ted Friedman.

These views do not represent those of publications in which my work appears.

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