Well, we had some massive storms hit the area and I thought it would be nice to check in with the Berkeley tree sit at the Memorial Stadium Oak Grove on Jan 6th, 2008. You can see some earlier shots I took in December, 2007 in my 2007 Oak Grove Protest page which also has a bit of an explanation as to just what this is about. The short form is that this is a tree sit on UC Berkeley grounds - this is between the football stadium and the main part of campus and the college wants to remove some trees to expand the sports facilities. There's been a tree sit for over a year to protest this, despite the fact that it's all held up in the courts because of a wide variety of issues - including the fact that the Hayward Fault goes right under the stadium. The trees were largely planted in the 1920s as part of the stadium landscaping but look older because they get a lot of water - much more than the thousands of identical but older oaks in the rest of the east bay hills.

They do regular resupplies Sunday afternoons. You might think that they would be more secretive, but a) the cops/security leave them alone if it's a protest and not just somebody handing food over, and b) they can ask for donations that way. The whole thing is very much oriented towards entertainment - there's music, jugglers, etc. Interestingly enough the tree people themselves were fairly grouchy - asking in a very pissed off way why they hadn't brought more carabiners (used in rock climbing, I'm sure they're very useful in the trees) and then remembering to thank them for what they did bring. That's the problem with having hippies as a support group - they're much more likely to bring hash brownies than stuff that will help your infrastructure. But to be fair those were nasty storms - I'd be grouchy too.

As before, I understand why they like the oaks, I do too, but feel this is basically a lot of feel-good nonsense, largely designed as a political ploy by a mayoral candidate, and the real fate of the oaks will be decided in the courts.

Here's an overview shot - there's the double fences. People were kind of filtering in at this point. I heard a lot of really stupid comments like "Isn't it illegal to put up those fences on city property?" Um, it's part of the campus, and state property, they can do what they want with it. Lots of what I'd call vague outrage - snarky comments about the campus or police but not a lot of energy behind it.

Looks pretty close to identical to last time - no real storm damage.

A guy hung out in the tree and chatted with people as they showed up. The guys in yellow are security. They stayed well away for the most part - there were no kind of arrests or anything.

Note the tarp and other stuff on the side, that's basically the same stuff as the crap I pointed out last time.

Now, I want to provide some context, because close up pictures often make protests look bigger than they are. The whole thing is centered on the red Volvo - you can just make everything out behind it. I'll refer to it later - it's a nice reference to where the shot was taken.

Close up - this is about peak for people being there.

Up in the trees getting everything ready.

A little speech action.

Between the fences - one's campus police, I'm not sure about the other one.

Up in the trees.

That little metal thing just below his shirt is a carabiner. Bring some, hippies, bring some! They sell them at REI!

Otherwise I'm going to fall out of the tree! (seriously dude, clip yourself in more, this isn't worth broken bones let alone a broken head). He really did look like he was going to fall for a while there.

Now, I was mostly shooting this with some fairly wide angle lenses, because that's what I had handy. But with a modern camera it's pretty amazing what a 100% crop looks like as you'll see in the next shot which is just this picture cropped in.

Yes, they're all wearing masks. There was a big theme of "we're being very naughty" but the local police/security didn't appear to care either way.

This is how high up they are. The wide angle of the lens actually distorts this a bit and makes it look more impressive than it is, but still, they're up there. A fall would be bad.

That's all stuff they're going to lift into the trees. Note the photographer. I'll be picking on him later. He seemed to be kind of an official photographer so I figure he's fair game. I Googled around a bit - if he's who I think he is, he's writing a book about the protest and is very politically active in Berkeley, but I'm only 95% sure and I don't want to promote him so I'm going to stay mum. Part of how I figured out who he probably is, is that lots of people obviously knew him and called him by his first name. So he's part photographer and part protester.

This brings up a bigger issue is that almost everybody knew everybody else, at least by reputation. And if somebody didn't, I heard a lot of people explaining to each other who the more famous people at the event were. That's what people don't get about these protests - it's a big social event. In this case, every Sunday - since you didn't do it at church, this is your substitute. And you can go to any protest and pretty much count on running into people you know and you can hang out and catch up then, and often they schedule them in late afternoon so you can all head out to dinner after if you want.

It also brings up the issue that this whole thing is very narcissistic. These people really believe they're making history, and it's important to have every move documented. So at these Berkeley events it's very common to have official or at least known friendly photographers or videographers there. It's also worth noting that both of the cars that honked as they went by got big cheers - even though one of them was flipping off the protesters. They just couldn't conceive that not everybody was on their side.

The guy with the red nose is Wavy Gravy (MC for Woodstock among other things). OK, now it's a party!

Wavy Gravy blowing bubbles. But where do they come from?

Ah, that's how he does it.

If you want to see the second part, go to part two of two!


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