BERKELEY - Despite a judge's order Monday that the Berkeley tree-sitters are living in trees illegally and posing a health and safety risk, the University of California- Berkeley has no plans to forcibly remove the group. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller issued a preliminary injunction evicting one tree-sitter - David Galloway - who has been served - by name - by the university, said spokesman Dan Mogulof. If Galloway is in a tree, he has to come down or face a $1,000 fine and up to five days in jail.
The judge's order opens the door for the university to serve others by name, forcing them down or sending them to jail. Tree sit supporters declined to say Monday if Galloway is in a tree. Last month, the university asked a judge to order the tree-sitters down after they outfitted their tree village with two large propane tanks and had open flames burning in the trees. In addition, the university claimed the sitters built at least 10 additional structures in the trees. Tree sitters deny those claims. From the beginning, UC Police have said the tree-sitters are trespassing and illegally lodging in trees. Tree-sitters claimed their free speech rights overrode any laws they might be breaking. On Monday, Judge Keller agreed with the university. "He said it's not a free speech issue. He supported that it's an illegal and dangerous protest, but we have to be able to serve them," Mogulof said.
Since the protest started on Dec. 2, tree-sit organizers say more than 300 different people have perched in the trees at different times. Since the beginning tree-sitters have used monikers such as "Chewing Gum" and "Stoic," avoiding giving their real names to reporters and police. This could make serving them tricky.
A university spokesman said the police chief and a university attorney were discussing Cal's next move late Monday. However, there were no immediate plans to forcibly remove protesters or prevent food and water from reaching them, Mogulof said.
The tree-sitters are protesting the university's plans to build a $125 million sports training center in the grove. The university has pledged to plant three trees for every one that is removed, but protesters say about 40 trees can not be adequately replaced because of their age and size. In a related matter, the university is in the midst of a trial for three consolidated lawsuits trying to halt the building of the training center. The city of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation has sued. The trial resumes Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward. A representative of Save the Oaks, which has been supporting the tree-sitters, said the ruling wasn't a total victory for the campus. "I think UC-Berkeley did not get as much as they thought they were going to get out of this," said Doug Buckwald. "I think they have the same difficulty as they had before. They always thought they had the right to enforce their laws prohibiting lodging and trespassing against the tree-sitters." Keller encouraged the tree-sitters to take the protest out of the trees and into a venue that is allowed under university policy.