It’s been an exciting day here at UC Berkeley. Four helicopters have been buzzing the office since about 8 AM, because the UC decided to erect a scaffold around the lone tree left in order to extricate the tree sitters. I got to watch about 12:00 today. There were probably 400 observers for the final hour, where workers assembled the scaffold and started to pick apart the encampment near the peak of the tree.
Apparently the remaining four tree sitters negotiated with UC officials, and came down voluntarily, which is good, because the risk to personal safety was very high. If the tree sitters were injured, the police would not be found liable, absent unreasonable or abusive behavior (but, a lawsuit would be expensive). If the police were injured by virtue of the sitters’ actions, on the other hand, the tree sitters could be criminally liable. I’m glad it didn’t come to pulling people out of the trees!
Part of the negotiation includes the creation of (you guessed it) a committee to deal with land use issues, but the tree sitters are not immune from criminal or civil prosecution. Charges could be quite serious. The cost to the UC is estimated to be $750,000. And at times, the tree sitters hit workmen and police with bottles and urine and feces.
I imagine the next stop for the tree sitters is the hospital. This protest started in December 2006. While some sitters rotated in and out, access to the tree grove has been limited by police for a long time, meaning that the men removed today from the trees have been up there since at least August 2007. I wonder what health effects one experiences from being outside 24 hours a day, in a tree, in cold, foggy weather! From the looks of the pictures, it’s not good for your hygiene.
Nor was it good for the hygiene of UC-Berkeley. Now that our friends are down from the trees, I hope that they remove the encampment established next to the law school. The ground crew for the tree sitters was large, and they had a more or less permanent presence on Piedmont Ave. Perhaps you were imagining something quaint, like a group of campers. Nope. Here’s a typical example of the type of junk that gets collected by this crowd. You might get an idea of what my school has had to deal with…