Tree-sitter renews People’s Park protest

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

Seven months after a People’s Park tree-sitter was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, the park has once again become home to a tree-sit, this time in response to what the tree-sitter called an urgent situation for Berkeley’s homeless people.

A sometimes Berkeley resident who goes by the name of Moonshato climbed into a tree at the park near the intersection of Haste and Bowditch streets at about 11 p.m. Sunday night under the direction of Zachary RunningWolf, a local activist and homeless advocate, and said he plans to stay posted in the tree for at least a week.

RunningWolf said the tree-sit is partly in protest to a proposal by the Telegraph Business Improvement District that suggests UC Berkeley ban unlicensed events in the park —  which RunningWolf said could keep the group Food Not Bombs out of the park. He added that tree-sitters are protesting alleged attempts by the campus, which has jurisdiction over the park, to remove trees in order to facilitate construction on Ohlone burial ground.

Roland Peterson, executive director for the district, said the policy Runningwolf is referring to does not explicitly mention Food Not Bombs, a group that brings food for the park’s homeless five days a week.  He added that even beyond Berkeley, Food Not Bombs has historically worked without permits and does not comply with health and safety requirements.

Helen Finkelstein, who works with the group in the East Bay, said it does not support the business district’s proposal.

RunningWolf said the protest’s timing was meant to involve students, who have recently returned to campus, in the discussion about the park.

A similar tree-sit at the park that began in November ended when tree-sitter Matthew Dodt, also known as Midnight Matt, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Dodt’s 89-day tree-sit, which was also organized by RunningWolf, began in protest of suggested changes to the park as part of Willard Neighborhood Association President George Beier’s Berkeley City Council campaign last fall.