Tree-sitter falls from tree, protest ends

Protester Moonshato sits in a tree in People's Park.
Fikre-Selam Habebo/Staff
Protester Moonshato sits in a tree in People's Park.

The People’s Park tree-sit that began just over a week ago came to an end early Tuesday morning after one of the protesters fell out of the tree and had to be rushed to the hospital.

A 19-year-old female fell out of the tree at about 4 a.m, sustaining major injuries and effectively bringing the demonstration to an end. Officers from UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department arrived at the scene at about 4:37 a.m., according to UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode, spokesperson for the department. Police have not confirmed the extent of the tree-sitter’s injuries, though various residents of the park claim she broke her back during the fall.

According to local activist Zachary RunningWolf — who has organized several tree-sits in the park — the 19-year-old female, whom he called Amy, fell out of the tree after accidentally rolling over in her sleep. RunningWolf said that while it is customary for tree-sitters to be tied into the tree while they sleep, Amy was not tied in at the time of the fall.

The tree-sit began Aug. 28 when sometimes Berkeley resident Moonshato climbed up into a tree in the park near the intersection of Bowditch and Haste streets to protest proposed changes to the park and raise awareness about Berkeley’s poor and homeless communities.

According to RunningWolf, Amy joined Moonshato in the tree sometime last week, and the two were joined by a third protestor a few days later.

Though police were unable to say whether Napa resident Brandon Smith was the third tree-sitter, UCPD officers saw Smith coming out of the tree at about 6:20 a.m. Tuesday and then arrested him on an outstanding felony warrant from Napa County for grand theft, according to DeCoulode. Smith was taken to Berkeley Police Department Jail.

DeCoulode said no other tree-sitters have been arrested but that police are investigating the involvement of a man who was seen walking with Smith. DeCoulode could not confirm whether the man was Moonshato.

RunningWolf said Moonshato left the tree either Friday or Saturday.

RunningWolf said that despite the protest’s tragic ending, the demonstration was still a success.

“We brought to light to basically the issues we were concerned with,” he said. “Poverty’s not a crime.”

Sarah Burns is the lead crime reporter.