These are from Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 in Berkeley, CA. If you haven't been following this whole mess, UC Berkeley wants to build a sports facility where there are currently some lovely trees they'd planted in the 1920s and the locals are upset and some folks have been living in the trees for a year and a half. The full version is much more complex, and this is really just a meaningless sideshow since it's been in the courts for a long time and they're just hashing over the last few details.
Mostly the UC has left them alone but in the last week in anticipation of the court case finishing up they've started making life difficult for the tree sitters by removing as much of their food, lines, sleeping platforms, whatever they can get. A couple of tree sitters were removed and one came down voluntarily because he got split from the main group and couldn't realistically hold out by himself. They've been holding regular Sunday resupplies for months now. They're pretty straightforward - you can see one in a prior report.
But now for the first time the police would be serious about stopping them. There were five arrests in the last few days (everything from trying to undo the fastener on a police barrier to violating a stay away order). Many of what I'd call the leadership weren't there - I don't know if they were actively being held or just had stay-away orders themselves. They put out a huge call to bring together enough people to overwhelm the police and resupply the sitters. Let's see how that worked for them.
Well, first off Dumpster Muffin's not in her perch. (I'm serious, that's what they call her). I also noticed that most of her supplies were gone - she had a lot of water under that perch but it's gone now. I heard the tree sitters but didn't see any - apparently they're all in one tree or a set of closely intertwined trees with the remaining supplies. Dehydration seems to be their main concern. There's apparently about 30 gallons of water up there and five or six people, so you do the math. They're not in immediate danger but it's been very hot lately and I imagine by next Sunday's resupply they'd be hurting if they don't get more water today.
They have a vast area barricaded - they now have two barricades and two barbed wire fences between where you can go and the trees.
"Prosperity begins with protecting our planet". For some reason this was everywhere - signs, chalk. Maybe they think it will appeal to Republicans.
She's just hanging out in the median strip - she was acting as a kind of lookout and distraction as far as I can tell.
So here's the main group of folks. Not big numbers, and they're all the way across the street - which is a long way since there's a big planted area between the two lanes.
There was also another group down the street - they seemed to have stashed a ton of supplies in those bags.
That's Matthew Taylor - I mention him sometimes but not usually by name. He got arrested later so let's give him his day in the sun. There was a Berkeley Councilwoman who seemed very ineffective. Matthew was the only one that seemed to be organizing at all. Here he's running between the two groups.
There was some media there but not a ton.
The usual local characters.
After some speeches and a good chant of Om (you can hear it on the video) the big plan was apparently to rush the fence. Now, they had no bolt cutters or way over the barbed wire or anything I could see. Some folks after were saying "That was the plan? Seriously?". The sitters have been very clever historically and it didn't occur to many of us that they would call for all of those people to bring stuff and not actually have a clue as to what to do with it.
It all kind of stalled out - this is where the smaller barriers end - you can just go around the other one, and apparently Matthew tried to undo the next one or jump it or something. Anyway, he got arrested. In the video you can just see him being hauled off as the crowd chants "let him go". But that was it - one single arrest and the whole thing lost steam.
Lots of people had bags with various kinds of water containers ready. Lots of hippies shop at Costco incidentally - Kirkland water was the #1 type.
After that, pretty much a stalemate. The police videotaped us.
The protesters videotaped everything.
The cherry pickers kept working.
And all traffic ground to a halt because of all of the people blocking the street. Some citizen started organizing them to back up out of the area and the police eventually joined in and ordered them to do what they were doing anyway.
The media called home asking how long they should stay since it looked like things had stalled out. Most of them left at about this point. I stayed a while longer just in case there was a plan B.
Does he look like he has a plan?
OK, there's a plan, but where are the organizational skills?
I'll keep that in mind.
Lots of water just sat everywhere, abandoned. Later when the police got some water themselves there were accusations that they had stolen the water intended for the protesters. As if the police don't do this all the time and know how much water they need and how often to pass it out and have some big supply of it on campus.
Some doctors got on the radio to talk to the tree sitters, and mostly citizen journalist types recorded all of it. If you want to know the signs of dehydration I'm sure it's all over YouTube by now, along with the color of the protester pee and other things I didn't need to know.
Just think of all the overtime. Last I heard the college had spent $370,000 on security, the city spent $250,000 on the lawsuit against the college. I don't know what the college spent on the lawsuit but it's probably comparable. All together by the time it's over I bet a million dollars will have been pissed away, not to mention the multiple man-years spent in the trees or organizing, and the facility will be built anyway. The only one who wins is the rival Stanford football team.
They all sat in the street, sang, passed around strawberries. Kind of mean to eat strawberries in front of the tree sitters (who could see at least some of this since they shouted things down sometimes).
At this point they just settled down into taking turns making speeches about how important all of this was. I looked around, saw the crowd was about half gone, the media was about all gone, and there was no momentum. Time to leave and get on with my life!
If you can't see the video, try the direct link.
PS After I left there was one thing I missed - one protester attempted to throw fruit into the trees. She was arrested. The fruit didn't make it and ended up on the ground. I say "fruit" instead of a specific kind because the San Francisco Chronicle said it was an orange and people who were there said it was an apple. The Chronicle reporting on this has been awful and full of errors so I'm guessing apple but I wouldn't put any money on it. Still, it shows the confusion with these things - for all of the photographers and video and reporters the details of what actually happened can be obscure.
In retrospect I really don't know what they were thinking or if the whole point was to be able to say the police were denying water to the protesters and they didn't really expect to succeed. They would have had to penetrate one more barrier to get to where they did resupplies before, but I believe the branches they were using for their rope hoist system are all gone, and without ropes between the trees it's not clear to me that the tree sitters could get close enough to get anything from the sidewalk. If that's all true the protesters would have had to penetrate both inner fences as well. Personally I think the gal with the orange had the right idea - I'd love to see some kind of launcher system shooting water bottles right up into Dumpster Muffin's little perch.
Update: According to the school paper - the Daily Cal - the medical supplies the tree sitters asked for included "Ganja". Cute. The other media left that out somehow. They did eventually get some bandages and hydrogen peroxide so they could treat the kind of scrapes one gets living in a tree.
Also the city is trying to force the university to resupply the sitters, or at least move the two outer barriers. At least one councilwoman claims the sidewalk is city property, and the mayor said his hands were tied because it's private property. Basically I think the city has no idea what the hell's going on or what approach to take at this point but they're having a closed-door meeting on the 24th to sort it out.
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