BERKELEY (KPIX) – A showdown was brewing at historic People’s Park, over some trees University of California was cutting down. The university says its for maintenance, but protesters don’t believe them.

In the end, more than a dozen trees were chopped down Friday. In order to avoid crowds and potential protesters, lumberjacks showed up unannounced at dawn.

The school says some trees were blocking sunshine; others were too close to power lines or simply dead.

“There were three dead trees,” said U.C. Berkeley spokesperson, Roqua Montez. “Three of the larger trees were dead. They needed to be removed and several of the other trees had large bark branches that were slipping off and could possible fall.”

About a dozen protesters started guarding trees, ironically, trees that were not marked to come down yet.

Steve Wasserman doesn’t believe it’s maintenance. He claims it is connected to a planned student housing project at the park.

“A few token trees may survive this massacre,” he said.

He doesn’t believe the university, he said.

“Because the university has a nearly unbroken record of lying.”

Montez disputes that connection to the university’s housing project.

“This was all part of a deferred maintenance program and has absolutely nothing to do with the Revitalization and Rehabilitation Project going on in three years,” he said.

One of the protesters calls himself Ninja Cat.

“My belief is that they’re doing this cutting down to gauge our reaction, to see how difficult it may be in the future for then to build this building,” he said.

Another protester who goes by the name Sasquatch said seeing the trees torn down made him very sad.

Montez cautions there is still more work to do.

“About 41 trees are slated to come down,” he said.

Roughly 15 trees were downed on Friday and he says crews are coming back. The university insists that not all the trees are being removed.

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