21-month tree protest ends at US university

A 21-month occupation of an oak grove at the University of California at Berkeley, US, has ended peacefully, but not without some dispute, as the remaining “tree-sitter” protesters descended from their perch, writes AP staff writer MIchelle Locke.

The protesters, who have attracted a considerable amount of media coverage in the US, came down from the trees’ canopies after their food and water supplies were cut off on Monday.

School officials said they were prepared to forcibly remove the activists, who had hoped to stop construction of a $125m (£72.5m) sports centre that threatened a stand of 42 trees on campus.

But as scaffolding took shape at the base of the redwood tree housing the remaining four, the protesters indicated they were willing to descend, said campus police Chief Victoria Harrison. They slowly climbed down early Tuesday afternoon to cheers from supporters below. No one was injured.

The tree-sitters said they agreed to come down on the condition that the University of California create a land use committee that would include input from students and residents into the school’s future land decisions.

But a UC spokesman said there was never such a deal made, and the university has no plans for the committee.

A crowd of several hundred turned out to watch the end of the protest, some drawn by curiosity, others to show support.

A group of street percussionists beat on plastic buckets and water bottles, providing a steady drum beat that competed with the occasional roar of chain saws.

The tree-sitters, none of whom were UC students, were arrested immediately by police and face charges including trespassing and violating a court order, authorities said. Five other demonstrators on the ground also were arrested and face charges including resisting police officers.

Among the bystanders was third-year forestry major Thea Chesney. She agreed with the tree-sitters’ cause, although she acknowledged that made her in the minority on campus.
“It makes me really sad,” she said of the felled trees. “It’s just absolutely tragic what’s happened.”

Source: ABC News website

Date: 10/09/2008

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