BERKELEY, CA- University of California police moved in yesterday morning and cut many limbs and branches of a Redwood tree and cut down twelve Oak trees that have been protected by tree-sitting protesters for the last 21 months. Five people were arrested as they peacefully pleaded with arborists not to destroying the trees of the Memorial Oak Grove deemed a sacred burial site to Ohlone Indians.Twelve trees were cut today and the University says they will continue cutting 46 over the weekend. Four protesters remain in a single Redwood tree in the center of the grove. Arborists trimmed most of the branches from the Redwood tree occupied by the four remaining tree sitters. Cutting the branches made it virtually impossible for the tree sitters to move from tree to tree. A spokesman for the campus said that within three days, the University would no longer honor its agreement to ensure they had adequate nutrition and water. The tree sitters currently only have one liter of water to share between four people as they sit in 90 degree heat.
The Memorial Oak Grove is regarded as a sacred place to Native American people and is documented as such by UC Berkeley’s own Anthropology Department. There is evidence of 2 shell mounds sites in the area, with 19 ancestral remains found within them. Along with UC Berkeley’s attempt to develop on a sacred place, they are guilty of housing over 17,000 sacred remains and objects. UCB currently holds the largest human remains collection in the United States of which it is not in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
“I brought my five year old daughter and two month old son out today to bear witness to the massacre of sacred life,” said Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Tribe and co-chair of Advocates to Protect Sacred Sites. “The cops responded by yelling to move them behind the median. I asked if they would stand by as complacent if it was their grandmother’ s gravesites being desecrated. I want my children here to witness the destruction of sacred life and how important it is to protect it. I wanted them to witness the cops, arborists and UC Officials that participated and cheered as the trees came crashing down from bulldozers. This exhibits the ongoing Human Rights abuses committed by the University. They refuse to comply with NAGPRA by holding 13,000 of our ancestors remains hostage, they illegally reorganized NAGPRA with no tribal consultation and now they continue to desecrate sacred burial grounds.”
The Memorial Grove is a native Coast Live Oak ecosystem. Native oaks support the most complex terrestrial ecosystems in California. The California Native Plant Society CNPS has stated that the Memorial Oak Grove is “an important gene bank for the Coast Live Oak.” Every one of the oaks in the grove should be protect by law and the Berkeley Coast Live Oak moratorium forbids cutting mature Coast Live Oaks in Berkeley. UC refuses to recognize the law. The grove is also part of a National Historic Site. The Stadium and landscape is a memorial to Californians who died in World War I.
The tree sitters are urging people to come and show support for the trees and bear witness to the University of California’s blatant disregard to sacred sites and native ecosystems.