BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Six protesters who didn’t want arborists to remove five diseased and damaged trees from People’s Park in Berkeley were confronted by police and arrested early Tuesday, a University of California at Berkeley spokesman said.
UC Berkeley campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said the heavily armed officers were needed to keep the protesters from violently confronting crews as they prepared to remove the trees.
“We absolutely had a large number of officers here,” Mogulof said. “And the reason for that is, it is the best way to prevent and deter violence.”
The work to remove a Torrey pine tree, three Deodar cedars and one Monterey pine was to have begun on Dec. 28 but protesters blocked the trees and the university decided not to remove the trees at that time.
But after a visitor was killed by a falling tree on campus last week, officials moved ahead with the removal.
“They were rotten, they were infested by insects, they had weakened limbs, they were leaning,” Dan Mogulof said.
On Jan. 4, a small group of protesters established a small encampment in the park, which Mogulof said was an illegal move that violating a long-standing prohibition against camping on university property.
The encampment grew over time and fluctuated between 10 and 50 people.
“I believe the arborist was handed a paycheck and was told to tell them this many trees was sick and need to go,” said David Teague voicing the beliefs of the protesters.
On Jan. 7, UC police officers repeatedly and regularly told people at the encampment that they were in violation of the law and subject to arrest, Mogulof said.
The officers also told people at the encampment that there are vacant beds in city of Berkeley shelters and encouraged them to take advantage of those resources, according to Mogulof.
When arborists and UCPD officers arrived at People’s Park early Tuesday morning, there were still eight people at the encampment.
Six of them were arrested between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Tuesday and were cited for unlawful lodging, unlawful camping on campus and breaking the campus curfew, he said.
The university didn’t disclose the number of officers who carried out the arrests but said California Highway Patrol officers helped UC police make the arrests.
University officials said they expect all of the tree work in the park to be completed by the end of the day and will continue to enforce the law that prohibits overnight camping in the park, as they have for more than 20 years.
According to the university, the park does not have the appropriate facilities or infrastructure needed to ensure public health and safety nor does the campus have the resources or the responsibility to manage and operate the park as an urban campground.
Mogulof said the tree work at the park was part of a university effort to remove trees at 15 sites around the campus that arborists had deemed to be dangerous.
Protesters who created a “The People’s Park Committee” page on Facebook wrote, “It’s a terrible day in People’s Park and we are angry.”
The protesters said, “They have cleared the protest camp and ushered Expert Tree Service (the tree killers) into People’s Park.”
The protesters identified three of those who were arrested, who they described as “People’s Park defenders,” as Adam Ziegler, Michelle Lot, and James Cartmill.
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