These are from Friday, September 5th in Berkeley, CA
Note: These are morning shots, which feature branch removal. The evening shots feature whole trees going down and counter protesters - there's a link at the end of this page.
Well, it had to happen eventually. 20 months into a lawsuit/tree sit with UC Berkeley facing up against the city of Berkeley and a homeowners group and some hippies the injunction against construction was removed last night. This morning as soon as there was good light they moved in extra police and workers and gear and started cutting trees. 42 trees will be cut, mostly oaks. There are still four tree sitters in one redwood and the rumor is they'll be given a 72 hour ultimatum to leave before being removed, but Cal is starting the tree removal process immediately.
644 days. Imagine how many hours of work have gone into this - not to mention a million bucks spent on security and legal fees. Imagine if they spent that energy on the rainforests or just bought some oak-covered land in the east bay hills and donated it to the park district.
So of course they have to fluff it up and try to raise anti-UC anger, but all of the actual students were absolutely delighted that there was finally movement on this. They think it's crazy to be spending a thousand dollars a day on security during a state budget crisis. The tree sit supporters like to say the reason the tens of thousands of students across the street haven't bothered to come over and help is apathy. They're wrong - the students actively disagree with what they're doing. And they're vocal about it too - they'll walk right up next to the hippies and start talking loudly about how they're glad to see the trees go down (it's kind of mean, frankly).
I kind of like the tree power sign but note that some of the signs you might see come from a different protest - they dropped the signs off here after for some reason.
OK, let's get to the meat of this. Pretty much looks like any large scale tree removal. They were doing everything very safely - they don't want to damage trees that are staying and of course there are people in one tree. So they were stripping trees of branches and shredding them. I didn't see them actually cut the base of a tree but I didn't really expect them to - under the circumstances the safe thing is to pull everything down piece by piece and that's exactly what they were doing. They're removed branches before but this was much more aggressive and complete - not just removing strategic branches that were used to go from tree to tree, but rather picking a tree and working their way up and stripping every single branch as they went up. In the video you can see they're pretty much constantly feeding a big shredder.
This is Dumpster Muffin, a former tree sitter. She left voluntarily. She's facing away from the grove, saying a little prayer or meditating at a shrine.
This guy was burning sage on and off - if you see smoke in the video, it's this guy's doing.
There was just a smattering of supporters and no attempt to stop anything. They just hung out insulting the police. (Especially minority police - "That's right! You stand right there! Where the white man tells you to! You wouldn't want to get in trouble with the white man!")
People watched from the stadium.
The usual folks who have been photographing and videoing for the supporters are still out there. I noticed in the very first report I did on the oaks nine months ago that this guy didn't know how to use that very expensive white lens - and guess what, he still doesn't. It's not the gear, it's how you use it. Like most of the regulars he's there for his own reasons - he's writing a book, another's running for mayor, and many are "professional activists" padding their resume.
Notice how big that branch was that they'd just cut off. Again, they aren't exactly felling trees all at once - it would be unsafe and stupid and would damage the trees they're keeping. But they're removing a ton of material and it's just a matter of time before they'll have done all they can without dealing with the one remaining increasingly isolated tree that still has tree sitters.
Tree sitters are terrified of guys in hard hats. Not just because of what they do to the grove, but because they represent the jobs they might have to get some day.
Notice there's nearly as many media there as supporters. ABC and CBS were there, and another group with an unmarked news van (that's common) - I didn't bother to find out who they were with. Basically all the local TV stations and newspaper have been out there regularly.
There were tons of police, mostly just hanging out.
Two of the tree news vans arrived after I did.
The one little moment of drama happened when a cop removed a sign that was hung where they're not allowed. He eventually gave it back - you can watch the drama in the video at the end.
You can't really make it out, but there's one person at the base of all of the junk in the redwood. You can see them moving around in the video although the zoom is rather extreme. There's something like 3-4 people still up there.
OK, here's the video. If you want to hear the chainsaws yourself, now's your chance.
Update: at about 2:15pm they were trimming some high branches of the redwood and the sitters had something heavy (a bit of branch?) tied to the end of a rope and were slinging it at the workers and then pulling it back and trying again. Classy. Didn't do any good except slow them down a bit - lots of greenery falling. (they're apparently hoping to snag it on one of their tools)
2:30 There's at least two, two-man teams up on cranes with long cutting polls and it's pretty much impossible to defend against, although they're using branches to hit the polls. Basically imagine some guys standing in a tree and every little bit of greenery is being cut from around them - snip, snip, snip - until they're basically standing on a stubby branch next to a bare trunk. That's where they're headed. It's slow, though, and in the short term the back and forth will make the sitters feel like they've accomplished something. I think the goal is to see how they feel in the morning...
Update 3: OK, back to the grove, and they're knocking down whole trees now that they can do it safely.
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