Protester convicted of assaulting officer

Midnight Matt sits in a tree in Peoples Park on Jan. 27, 2011./File
Christopher McDermut

Nearly a year after his arrest, a jury convicted People’s Park protester Michael “Midnight Matt” Dodt Thursday of trespassing and assaulting a police officer with a laser device.

Dodt was arrested in January of last year after staging an 89-day tree-sit at People’s Park to challenge UC Berkeley’s ownership of the park and protest what he claimed was mistreatment of homeless people at the hands of police.

UCPD arrested Dodt on suspicion of stabbing a man Jan. 28 of last year, though those charges, which included attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, were eventually dropped. According to Alameda County Prosecutor Peter McGuiness, the incident that led to Dodt’s recent conviction occurred a few days prior to the alleged stabbing incident. In that instance, a police officer allegedly noticed Dodt shining a laser pointer at her while she sat in her car near the park.

Dodt was sentenced to three years probation and given orders to stay away from the park and UC Berkeley property, according to McGuiness.

Regardless of his current predicament, Dodt’s lawyer Zadik Shapiro said Dodt plans to continue protesting — just probably not in People’s Park.

“I’m sure he’ll remain active in the community protesting this or that,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said Dodt believes the Ohlone Indians were the rightful owners of the park.

“He was in the tree at the request of other park activists based on rumors that the UC was going to come and cut all of the trees down in the park (which were not factual),” UCPD Captain Steve Roderick said in an email.

UC Berkeley has recently been overseeing maintenance work at the park to improve safety and reduce the rat population, according to Christine Shaff, communications manager for the campus facilities services department.

The project aims to add new trash cans to the park, make irrigation improvements and increase lighting, Shaff said.

The project has been met with controversy from park activists who claim the campus did not adequately communicate with them prior to the project’s beginning and that work crews have destroyed structures of historical significance to the park.



Jaehak Yu covers city government.