People’s Park tree-sitter preaches park issues to passersby

Littlebird sits in a tree in People's Park.
Michael Gethers/Staff
Littlebird sits in a tree in People's Park.

Sitting on top of a high cedar tree in People’s Park, a protester who calls himself Littlebird preached to a small audience Friday afternoon, shouting chants and poetry to park dwellers, police officers and passers-by.

The conference, which lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, consisted of Littlebird reading poetry and commenting on the Free Speech Movement through a megaphone. The event saw a small turnout of one supporter, Berkeley resident Nathan Pitts.

During the conference, Littlebird had a small verbal confrontation with UCPD patrol Officers Sean Aranas and Pete Odyniec. Littlebird insisted that the officers leave, declaring that People’s Park was “for the people.”

Littlebird spoke out on a variety of issues — namely the eviction of people from the park at the 10 p.m. curfew and the cutting down of trees. He also demanded that the university give the park to the Berkeley community.

“We, the people, demand that you give the park to the people,” Littlebird said. “We, the people, demand that you eliminate the curfew.”

Throughout the conference, he repeatedly chanted, “It is the People’s Park, even after dark.”

Littlebird, who has been staging this tree-sit since Tuesday in the cedar tree near the corner of Haste and Bowditch streets, claimed that his tree is scheduled to be cut down, hence the reason for his tree-sit. There have been some instances of tree trimming in recent weeks at the park.

Aranas and Odyniec said tree trimming is not unusual and added that they were not aware of any plans to cut down the cedar tree where the sit is being held. Christine Shaff, communications director of UC Berkeley’s Facilities Services Department, said there are currently no plans for that tree to be cut down.

Nonetheless, reactions to the university’s activities in People’s Park were mixed among park frequenters.

“I think the park’s cleaned up a lot,” said Richmond resident Joe Martinez, who relaxes in the park regularly. “I’d say overall, I think they might have gone too extreme in kicking out homeless people.”

Eric Erlloyd, a homeless man who often stays at the park, said that although UCPD enforces the curfew most nights, it is not much of an issue, adding that harassment from UCPD officers is rare.

Most other park dwellers slept through Littlebird’s conference.