So who is Tristan and why would he go almost halfway around the world to stand with Palestinians to protest injustices done against them by the state of Israel?
Tristan was born in 1971 to Quaker parents who made conscious choices not to chase the ‘American Dream’. Tristan grew up in a humble, rural environment. His parents instilled their pacifist and anti-war values in him. He went to his first demonstrations (against the Vietnam War) when he was an infant. In high school he got a lot of grief for his peace punk style and ethos.
In 1991 he moved to the East Bay and took part in protests against the First Gulf War. He started seeing and experiencing first hand the police repression of dissent. He became an active member of East Bay Food Not Bombs (FNB), cooking and sharing vegan food in People’s Park. He helped fight off the volleyball courts that UC Berkeley imposed on the Park in 1991. When the San Francisco police tried to shut down FNB in that city, he was arrested numerous times for sharing food. In the mid-90’s he traveled to El Salvador and met people resisting the brutal U.S. puppet government there. Back in the East Bay, he had a weekly show on Free Radio Berkeley and was a regular at Critical Mass bike rides.
Throughout the ’90s Tristan often traveled with the mobile FNB kitchen, which drew him to environmental, anti-nuclear and indigenous rights camps at the Nevada Test Site, Ward Valley and especially the forests of Northern California with Earth First! He became more dedicated to direct action. After taking part in the ‘Battle of Seattle’, where activists shut down the World Trade Organization meeting, he threw himself into the Global Justice movement as a participant and journalist at many summits worldwide.
In 2006 he went to Oaxaca after hearing his good friend Brad Will had been shot dead. Tristan came back with tales of love, liberation and late nights at the barricade. Brad’s death reminded him, as Tristan’s injury reminds us, of the risks we take when we stand for justice. While sobering, it is so important that these incidents re-energize our commitment to create a better world so we never allow our voices to be silenced.
More recently Tristan was a big part of the Memorial Oak Grove Tree-Sit, a 23-month effort to protect dozens of old trees on University of California Berkeley property. He often brought food, banners, props and gear. He spent many days and nights in the trees and was up there for the harrowing three-day showdown between the sitters and UCPD supervised goons. Though unable to save the trees, this broad-based community effort was wildly successful in inspiring thousands of people around the world, while shining a spotlight on UC’s evil ways.
Tristan traveled across many continents, working two jobs in between to fund his activism. He had already been to the Middle East twice, including Iraq where he toured with a circus cheering up kids in the war-torn country not long after the U.S. invasion. He was eager to go to Palestine for the first time and stand with the people there. When he was shot he was protesting and photographing the Israeli Apartheid Wall being built on Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Tristan is one the most beautiful and dedicated people we have ever met. His courage is immense; he’s usually one of the last to leave a crazy intense scene. He exemplifies thinking and acting both locally and globally. For him action is political AND personal, understanding the importance of coming together with others to challenge a system that exploits the Earth and her people, while also realizing the necessity of treating ourselves and each other with compassion, while building resistance that actualizes at each step the world we are building. Tristan remains in serious condition, and the effects of having part of his brain removed will not be known for some time. He fights for his own life as he has been fighting for all life for the last two decades. We are confident he will make a full recovery, growing in wisdom and bold as ever.