Local News

2 Cal Tree-Sitters Arrested; Public Split On Issue

BERKELEY (CBS 5 / BCN) ― Two protestors on the University of California, Berkeley campus voluntarily came down Wednesday from their trees in an oak grove, which has been the site of a battle between tree-sitters and the university.
The developments came as a new CBS 5 poll showed Berekley residents nearly equally divided between the protestors and Cal.

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said late Wednesday afternoon that Bradley Costello, who goes by the name "Squirtle," and Mathew Marks climbed down from the trees and were arrested by police.

Protesters have been living at the grove since Dec. 5, 2006, when a UC Board of Regents committee approved building a sports training center next to the university's football stadium. The project calls for tearing down the trees and has been the subject of ongoing legal challenges.
The CBS 5 poll of 500 Berkeley residents, conducted earlier this week by SurveyUSA, showed 43% siding with the university in the tree dispute and 41% siding with the protestors. The close results were within the poll's 4.6% margin of error.

According to Mogulof, Costello, 20, approached a university police officer and told the officer that he and a possible second protestor wanted to come down.

University police Chief Victoria Harrison spoke with Costello and was told he wanted to come down peacefully and also wanted a cigarette.

Marks, 24, said that he wanted to give a statement and give his bag to tree-sitter supporters down below, said Mogulof.

The two men, along with a videographer who had been documenting the tree-sitters, were escorted to the police station and gave statements, the spokesman said.

The two tree-sitters were asked about provisions of the remaining seven protesters, said Mogulof, and police were told they had adequate food and water.

According to Mogulof, Costello and Marks were both charged with trespassing and violation of a court order prohibiting people in the trees. Marks was additionally charged in violation with a previous stay-away order.

The two were taken to jail to be booked and were expected to be cited and released, said Mogulof, who added that after police watch video footage of the protestors, there could be additional charges for throwing human waste at officers.

"We're very encouraged by this development. It suggests that our strategy is having an effect and we can only hope that other people will come down voluntarily and follow the lead of these two men," said Mogulof.

As for the legal fate of the sports center project, three plaintiff groups who filed suit against the university filed a proposed judgment with Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller on Tuesday saying the university should scrap its plans unless it can prove that the football stadium, which sits along the Hayward earthquake fault, can be retrofitted legally.

Miller issued a mixed court ruling last week which keeps in place an injunction against the project that she issued on Jan. 29, 2007, halting the university from going ahead with its proposed $140 million, 158,000-square-foot project for now.

But UC-Berkeley officials said they believe Miller's 129-page ruling opens the door for them to begin the project sometime in the near future, saying that they can resolve the few remaining concerns expressed by Miller.

The plaintiffs are the city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents people who live near the football stadium.

Attorneys for the university will file their response to the proposed judgment on Friday.

Stephen Volker, the attorney for the California Oak Foundation, said Wednesday that it was not clear if Miller would ask for another court hearing on the matter. 

Volker said the plaintiffs sent her a letter saying they would be happy to have another hearing if the judge thinks it would be productive.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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