What a long strange Tree-sit

[Ed. note: As we go to press, a court decision is imminent regarding whether the State will allow University of California [UC] to destroy the Memorial Oak Grove on Piedmont Ave, just north of Bancroft Street in Berkeley, which has been occupied by a treesit for over 500 days. UC has stated that it will attempt to forcably remove the treesitters soon after the ruling. Come to support the trees during this critcial time!]

Before the seedling of empire was exported to North America to flower into today’s nightmare, Great Nature and the people who lived here coexisted harmoniously. Amongst those people were the Ohlone, who buried some of their dead beneath the soil on a certain hillside in what is now called “Berkeley”. The trees we are defending are rooted in this very hillside.

On April 13, 2008, the Berkeley treesit celebrated the 500th day of occupation. It is the longest urban treesit in ‘U.S.’ history and has wide range community support from a diverse group of people, from houseless peoples to students to forest defenders to old grannies and wealthy Berkeleyites. The treesit has gained national and international media recognition, both of which bring visitors from all over the world to see the trees and experience the magic that is the sacred Oak Grove. Through five hundred days of resistance, we are saving the Memorial Oak Grove and calling attention to countless other issues surrounding those specific trees, like the fact that the UC has developed every nuclear bomb that the United States has and UC Berkeley’s storage of Native remains for science experiments.

For UC it’s ‘business as usual:’ cut down the grove of locally endangered trees, tear up the hill, and build a high-tech sports facility.

Perhaps one day the forest that lived here will return. Perhaps we’re too hopeful and all is lost, but reversing the trend of cutting down trees and tearing up hills seems to be an important first step, especially for UC — whether it’s in their economic interest or not.

Cutting these trees would desecrate a Native American burial ground and WWI Memorial, violate state environmental law and local tree ordinances, and wipe out a wildlife corridor and one of the last intact groves of Coast Live Oak trees in the Berkeley lowlands. We need to honor and preserve established groves of trees, not destroy and fragment the few that remain.

We can’t recount every moment, but here are some highlights from the last few months.

After 8 or 9 months of a beautiful and dynamic ground encampment in the Oak Grove, and after several hundred people climbed and sat in the trees, UC made its move: Two barbed wire chain link fences, 24-hour security guards, and loud generator powered flood lights pointed into the trees. Sound intimidating? I bet they thought it sounded intimidating, too. For us, it was an opportunity to display our adaptability and determination. The network of occupied trees in our web expanded outside of the fence BEFORE it was even completed.

After having spent a fortune on an ineffective “solution” to the treesitter “problem”, UC’s next move was to arrest supporters for sending up supplies, for receiving things that we sent down, for alerting us to the presence of law enforcement — they even attempted to intimidate supporters from speaking to us, citing emotional support as another form of “aiding and abetting” Berkeley’s “criminals” in the trees. This was done on authority of a flimsy court order that came out of a SLAPP suit [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation]. Ground supporters have heroically tolerated the brunt of the repression – and resisted it.

In response to the mounting repression, re-supplies are now every Sunday at 2:00pm, spearheaded by Grandmothers for the Oaks. And it works!

We have also inspired two other treesits: one on the UC campus in Santa Cruz, defending redwood trees and challenging destructive development plans for 150 acres; and the other, a 19-day treesit in the middle of UC Berkeley campus, bringing attention to UC’s oppressive power structure, its involvement in nuclear weapons production, its holding captive 13,000 Native American remains, and other fucked up things it does.

In mid Febuary, UC invaded the Oak Grove with an early morning raid using a “professional” climber, who drove his spiked boots into four unoccupied trees. As word spread and people began to mass at the outer fence, several supporters sprang into action, free climbing various outer-perimeter trees- with cops on their heels- to gain access to the canopy network. By this time the UC-hired climber had already severed several key traverse lines, which we use to go from tree to tree in the air. He cut the lines, and failed to remove them completely. So from the other end the lines appeared to still be intact, causing one treesitter to cross to the other end of the line, only to find the severed end of the line draped over a branch and weighed down by a 5-gallon water jug. As the UC-hired climber made his way to the other end of the grove, treesitters were already busy resetting the lines that had been cut. The climber then delivered what would be the ‘money’ shot to the media. TV reports about this entire showdown were summarized by a shit bucket plunging 20 feet and exploding in a dazzling display upon the paved walkway below. The shit would then flow back into the bucket and the bucket would tumble back into the tree, only to have the climber kick it over and have it explode again — this time in slow motion.

Perhaps by now, UC has figured out that repression only makes us stronger. Each action by UC results in a resurgence of support and vitality for this campaign.

Spring is a time for ACTION! We are NOT going down without a fight! For a celebration of self-determination and resistance to empire, come live with us in the trees, participate in a community re-supply, or visit any time! We’re the tallest squat in the Bay.

For more info: 510-938-2109 saveoaks.com