BY Cristina Bautista
Dozens of UC Berkeley students, faculty members and Berkeley residents took to the oak trees near Memorial Stadium yesterday in a 24-hour protest of proposed university developments that may require the removal of the trees. Beginning at 9 a.m., the event encouraged community members to join the protesters who have been living in the trees since Dec. 2 with the aim of preventing the removal of the oak grove proposed in campus plans for a high-performance student athletic center.
“The community has spoken and (the university) needs to listen,” said tree dweller Zachary RunningWolf, a former Berkeley mayoral candidate. The city of Berkeley, neighborhood group Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation have all filed suits against the campus project. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller issued a temporary injunction Jan. 29 preventing the university from making any physical changes to the grove until the lawsuits are resolved. Organizers said the court ruling was a temporary victory, and yesterday’s protest was still necessary to make sure the oaks could remain in the area permanently. “The trees are not safe yet,” said Doug Buckwald, spokesperson for the protest group Save the Oaks at the Stadium. “Until (the university’s) plans change, we must stay here and protect the trees.”
More than 35 community members have sat in the trees since December, and some participants in yesterday’s event said they were heading into trees not only to save the oaks, but to protest what they considered UC Berkeley’s encroachment on the city. “Is our town going to be Berkeley or is it going to be UC Berkeley?” said Berkeley resident Phoebe Anne Sorgen, who climbed into the trees yesterday. “This issue is a symbol of that.” Several students also participated in the event and said that support for the oak protesters did not mean that they lacked school spirit. “I’m not against Cal football,” said freshman Christina Oatfield, an environmental science major who participated in yesterday’s protest. “I just think that there are so many opportunities for compromise.”