Essay: UC Berkeley Clears Oak Grove

/Essay: UC Berkeley Clears Oak Grove
Essay: UC Berkeley Clears Oak Grove 2016-08-07T21:38:38+00:00

© Ingrid Taylar for


Monday September 8, 2008

On Thursday last week, the news was out that UC Berkeley planned to act quickly after receiving the go-ahead to clear trees in Memorial Oak Grove.

By Sunday, the grove had been cleared of most of its oak trees, leaving the formerly lush space strewn with tree branches and felled oak trunks. Industrial chippers and machinery made haste shredding the greens, and hauling logs onto a truck, out of the grove.

The lone redwood, supporting the remaining tree sitters, stood in stark contrast to the flatland of chopped wood below. The agreement between UC Berkeley and the protestors ends at 9:00am this morning (Monday) at which point some action may occur, getting the remaining four out of the tree. The tree sitters came into view periodically on Sunday, phoning supporters below from a solar-powered cell, and shouting occasionally at the crowd.

Across the street from Memorial Oak Grove, a Native American ceremony featured burning sage and ritual dancers. Birds flitted in and around the remaining few trees at the perimeter. Citizens laid flowers along a police barricade, but the memorials were promptly removed by police and arrest was threatened for any repeaters.

A woman stopped passersby, asking if they supported the cutting of the trees. Most said no. There was palpable sadness and defeat — juxtaposed against the incessant metallic churning of the chippers and loaders.

The University is cutting the trees to make way for a new athletic facility. A lawsuit was filed to prevent removal of the Memorial Oak Grove — and protesters have inhabited the trees for almost two years, in an effort to protect the grove from destruction. Last week, the state Court of Appeals rejected a plea to ban the tree-cutting by order.

In a moment that crystallized the finality of the actions, a single protestor stood in front of the logging truck as it tried to leave the Memorial Stadium area. The truck blasted its horn but the man wouldn’t budge. After a brief standoff, the man moved out of the way of his own accord. And police ushered the truck carrying the cut oaks, past the people in front of the Greek Theatre, queued up to see Dave Matthews and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

A few concert-goers cheered as the truck rolled by. Students played LaCrosse on the adjacent field, detached from the scene. A long-time supporter of the protest shook his head and wondered aloud how this incongruous, suburban tableau could be set against the dramatic confrontation that happened at the same spot just a few minutes earlier.

A tree sitter appeared through the last thicket of branches on the sheared redwood, and pulled out his guitar — drowned out by the sound of the wood chipper. The front page of the Save the Oaks websitenow simply says “This grove is gone 9-6-08. Thanks to all those who tried to save it.”

Logging Truck Leaves Memorial Oak Grove – September 7, 2008
Photos © Ingrid Taylar