Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Warbler Arrested/ Liberty Ponderosa Felled/ 2 Other Tree Sitters Extracted: Caltrans Bypass, Willits, CA (April 2, 2013)

Warbler was extracted from her tree sit this morning, arrested, and the Liberty Ponderosa felled.
 This morning's account is written from the point of view of an unapologetic lover of nature. God our Creator has blessed us with an abundance of love and life. That being said, it has been a dramatic morning. I woke up feeling sick this morning and canceled my work appointments. A few minutes later, I received a call that Warbler was most likely being extracted from her tree. Since I was there on the first day, I felt the need to see it to the last despite feeling sick and having a bad feeling about the day. By the time I arrived in Willits, Warbler had already been arrested, and the Liberty Ponderosa felled.
Protester and CHP. Liberty Ponderosa on the ground.
 As I walked along the highway towards the tree sit, a Caltrans construction worker said to me, "Good morning and please be safe." There were only a handful of protesters gathered when I arrived. One protester said to me "There is nothing left to do here, the other tree sitters are next to be extracted, meet there." Bypass aside, it was difficult to look upon the ravaged hillside, with the Liberty Ponderosa gone. The CHP looked upon us, many with arms folded. No problem, they had a law to enforce sadly enough. I stayed a while and took some photos, and then decided to head to the other tree sit.
Police in riot gear
 A few of us arrived at the same time, and walked over to the area together. It was sad to look upon several large Valley Oaks that had been felled in previous days. They were fine trees, I remember seeing them and taking their pictures when I hiked the boot print a couple months ago. Once we arrived closer to the tree sit, we could hear yelling coming from the tree tops. There was a medium sized gathering of protesters looking on. A cherry picker was on scene, as well as probably 40 to 50 police officers, many in riot gear.
Two tree sitters in a stand of Ponderosa pines
 Pretty soon, an officer announced over a bull horn that if anyone attempted to enter the construction site, they would be arrested. We gathered behind the fence and looked on. The mood was somber.
Officers in the cherry picker soon raised their weapons on the tree sitters.
 Next, two cherry pickers with police officers rose into the canopy. The tree sitters started to scurry from their platforms into other areas of their trees. The mood quickly turned tense and unstable when the officers raised their weapons at the tree sitters. Many in the crowd began screaming. I was disgusted. This is America, look at what we have become, or perhaps always were.
Cherry picker rising into canopy
 For the next hour or so, it was a cat and mouse game. When the officers would get close to the tree sitters, they would move to other areas. The sitters had a series of  lines set up between trees which allowed them to move to other trees. I was afraid someone was going to fall. The officers cut the lines and escape routes eventually.
Weapons remained positioned on tree sitters for entire hour
Everyone in the crowd continued to look upon the tense scene. Media were absent. Once the two tree sitters escape lines were cut, they both ended up in the same tree. The cherry pickers converged on them, and police climbers entered the tree. Many in the crowd continued to shout words of encouragement.
Weapons pointed at tree sitters
 The scene escalated quickly. The tree sitters were doing everything they could to stay in the tree, and the officers were doing everything they could to get them out of the tree. Once the police climbers reached the first tree sitter they grabbed a hold of him. The tree sitter was clinging to branches. A loud "Bang" was heard from one of the weapons. The crowd started screaming and going ballistic. Then another loud "Bang!" Everyone thought that the tree sitter was getting shot. Screams and obscenities were flying, some started running, many in the crowd were crying. Then another "Bang!" Everyone looked upon the scene in horror. It was very chaotic.
CHP Helicopter arrives on the scene
 We soon realized that the CHP used rubber bullets to fire upon the tree sitter. The other sitter surrendered and came out of the tree. Both were placed in handcuffs when they reached the ground. It was all over rather quickly from that point. The sitters did a heroic job trying to save their patch of earth. The crowd shouted encouraging words to the tree sitters who were placed in police cars. The crowd dispersed shortly afterward.
One of the two heroic tree sitters placed in hand cuffs
Thank God everyone was OK at the end of the day. Construction of the Caltrans bypass in Willits continues to move forward...

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