Wednesday, September 12, 2007

KPIX: Restraining Order Sought Against Cal Tree Sitters

Restraining Order Sought Against Cal Tree Sitters

(BCN) BERKELEY University of California regents will go to court on Wednesday to seek an order that would evict protesters from trees near the football stadium on the Berkeley campus on the grounds that they're trespassing and posing a health and safety danger.  UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said today that, "Our primary concern is fire danger," alleging that protesters are preparing meals with open flames in the grove of oak trees near Memorial Stadium on Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley. Protesters have camped out in the trees since last Dec. 5, when a UC regents committee voted 7-0 to approve an ambitious plan to build a new sports training facility and other facilities, including an underground parking lot, near the stadium, which straddles the Hayward earthquake fault. The university's plans call for tearing down the grove of oak trees. However, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued a preliminary injunction stopping the project on Jan. 29 after four plaintiff groups filed suit against the university.

Miller will hold a hearing on Sept. 19 and 20 on the issue of whether to stop the project completely. On Wednesday, a different judge, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller, will hold a hearing on the regents' request for a temporary restraining order against the tree protesters.

A suit filed by the regents on Monday alleges that protesters have constructed a total of 12 structures in the trees and have placed in the trees "several large propane tanks and open flame gas stove tops, one measure approximately six square feet in size." The suit says the oak grove "contains not only oak trees but also cedars, whose leaves contain highly volatile and combustible oils."  The suit also alleges that one of the protesters recently threw a lit firecracker at a UC Berkeley police officer standing below the trees and the leaves caught on fire, which the officer had to extinguish. The university has been forced to maintain a dozen fire extinguishers near the oak grove to be ready to respond to fires. The suit also claims the tree protesters eliminate their body waste while lodging in the trees and one protester recently fell out of the trees, apparently broke both of her wrists and had to be hospitalized.  Tree protesters Zachary Running Wolf, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Berkeley last year, insisted Tuesday that "there are no cooking facilities or propane tanks in the trees" and accused UC officials of "lying through their teeth."

Running Wolf said, "We wouldn't endanger the trees we're trying to save." Mogulof said the university wants to allow the tree protesters to continue to hold demonstrations but wants them out of the trees. The spokesperson also said that the university's regulations would allow the tree protesters to demonstrate on the ground below the oak grove during daytime hours as well as on the main UC Berkeley campus. However, Running Wolf said, "That's not good enough," saying that protesters want to be at the grove at all hours because they believe the university is prepared to cut down the trees at a moment's notice.

No comments: