UC Berkeley Tree-Sitters

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I was looking on the internet the other day to learn about the tree-sitters in Northern California when I saw one story about UC Berkeley. The university was planning to chop down the Memorial Grove of old oak trees in favor of a weight lifting facility for football players so a group of protesters climbed the trees 553 days ago and haven’t left since. There is a whole community of activists camping in the trees held together by ropes and various other devices.

In response to the actions of the activists, the police have barracaded the group in with fencing and reserves the right to arrest anyone supplying them with food. However, every Sunday at 2 p.m., environmental activists show up in numbers to support them. Presumably with the strength in numbers philosophy.

“Ki Jones” here has been for the past two months. Jones is originally from San Antonio and heard about the Berkeley tree-sit on the radio so he decided to come out west. Prior to arriving in Berkeley he was tree-sitting in the Northern California Redwood coast, and in Oregon.

As he was discussing his background and living situation, a group of Jewish missionaries walked up to us and started questioning Jones and his friends motives. The missionaries didn’t seem to see much validity in environmental conservation. Naturally, the tension started to rise, as Jones explained his position while the missionaries remained skeptical.

Among the positions adopted by the tree-sitters:
– Memorial Oak Grove is situated on a fault-line as well as the adjacent Memorial Stadium
– There has been evidence that this was an ancient Native American burial site and thus is sacred grounds
– The world is over-developed as is and the world cannot sustain it’s natural resources at the current rate of consumption
– Even though this is just fighting for a small part of the world, we need to celebrate Earth’s natural gifts
– The oak trees were dedicated to World War II veterans so they have historical value

Memorial Oak Grove Tree-Sitter, UC Berkeley, California Photo: Memorial Oak Grove Tree-Sitter, UC Berkeley, California (Apologies for the poor file quality. I’m using my laptop and have minimal software installed.)

Personally, I found Jones to be a nice guy and passionate about what he believes in. Among his interests is art. He sketched a telephone pole that had morphed in a tree. He intends to make it into a painting eventually. We also discussed photography a bit as well. His grandfather was a professional photographer back in the day so he developed an appreciation for the artform. In fact, here he is posing with my business card! Before I left, I mentioned that I was interested in talking with some of his friends from the Redwood Coast.

See more of my San Francisco Bay Area pictures.


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4 thoughts

  1. Richard,

    I don’t know if I would have classified the three students who walked up while we were talking to Ki as missionaries, I think they were just students from campus. (The girl stated that she was up from LA visiting her friends.) Once they joined the conversation, they definitely had a confrontational tone in their comments, but the one fellow then softened his tone after his first few comments. I couldn’t tell if they were being confrontational on purpose or were just trying to understand the basis behind the protest and came off wrong (and quickly adjusted) in their tone.

    I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and think they just came off wrong in their tone and were just trying to understand the situation.

    Or at least I like to think so…

  2. Hey Greg.

    I don’t think the girl was really doing any talking, but the other two were. I believe they were skeptical because they asked the girl who was climbing in the trees the same exact questions an hour later in a condescending manner. They realized they weren’t going to get the concessions that they were hoping to get from either during the course of the hour and half so they left.

    Ki floated from subject to subject a lot and that is more likely the reason why they the tone of the conversation changed. That is how I perceived the incident anyway.

  3. Richard,
    The story you tell here is much more interesting and moving then I expected when you had mentioned photographing the “tree sitters”. I can now appreciate their cause better.

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