Archive for Saturday, July 7, 2001

Police remove tree-sitting protesters

Environmentalists had spent months on property in fight against proposed development

July 7, 2001

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— Developers began to clear land for an apartment complex Friday as police arrested environmentalists who had climbed into trees in March to protest the project.

The 50-acre wooded site is being cleared for a 208-unit, low-income apartment complex. Tree-climbing environmentalists had occupied the land since March 22, arguing the wooded site dotted with sinkholes is not suited to high-density residential development.

Early Friday, bulldozers and heavy equipment cleared a roadway and knocked down trees, and more than 60 police officers removed the protesters. Authorities used a hydraulic lift to pluck three people from trees. Each was later charged with trespassing.

The crude plywood platforms that had been installed in the trees were dismantled with chain saws, sending wood, propane tanks, tarps and toilet paper tumbling to the ground.

One protester eluded police by climbing to the upper branches of a 90-foot red oak.

"They picked the wrong person to try to scare down," the man, who called himself Moss, shouted from the treetop. "I'm sick of seeing trees bulldozed."

Police set up a line around the site and ordered the protesters to leave the property. As of Friday evening, nine people who did not comply had been arrested. Nearly all were charged with trespassing.

There were no injuries.

"I'm just hopeful that no one is hurt and they do leave peacefully," property owner Bill Brown said.

City Councilman Jeff Ellington said he was confident the developers would preserve the area as much as possible.

"We have some of the strictest building codes in the world," he said. "As far as saving green space, we're one of the front-runners in the nation."

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