Tree sitters blocking Willits bypass route pulled from trees

3 Apr
cross posted from The Willits News

Early morning scene at tree sitter Amanda “Warbler” Senseman’s tree just after she had been taken away in a patrol car. Will Parrish is sitting in the middle of Highway 101 in protest. (Photo by Steve Eberhard)

A large contingent of California Highway Patrol officers removed four tree-sitters Tuesday morning and was in the process of removing the remaining one at 4:30 p.m.

Amanda “Warbler” Senseman, who announced she was on a hunger strike March 28 after spending two months in a pine tree at the south end of the bypass route, was the first person removed. Officers suspended in man-lifts positioned themselves on two sides of her tree and removed her in the predawn hours. She was taken to Mendocino County Jail on trespassing charges.

Conditions at the site were foggy and bystanders gathered on the west side of Highway 101 had poor visibility.

As Senseman was being driven away in a squad car, Sara Grusky ran after the car and was promptly arrested. Will Parrish ran onto Highway 101 and sat down. Officers then dragged him off the highway and placed him under arrest for trespassing and obstructing an officer. Shortly after the scene was secure, “Warbler’s” pine tree was cut down.

Near the end of the extraction operation as officers take Rain into custody while John stands on the limb below. (Photo by Steve Eberhard)

CHP and CalTrans vehicles, complete with flares, had lined up bumper-to-bumper on both shoulders of Highway101 near Senseman’s tree-sit in the darkness in anticipation of her extraction.

Shortly after the arrests, officers began shifting to the East Hill Road site to begin removing the next two tree-sitters, identified as Martin Katz, and Jean Weilbach. These tree-sitters had established nests in a small grove of pine trees on March 21.

In anticipation of the raid, they had pulled their platforms up higher into the trees earlier in the week. The duo also had established a rope-and-pulley network in the tops of most of the trees in the grove. They used this high-level network to move acrobatically from tree to tree as CHP officers approached.

Officers used the newly created roadway between Highway 101 and East Hill Road to mass their forces and hold protesters and other observers behind the bypass fencing. Two large man-lifts, one with two officers and one with three officers, had the main task of removing the two men from the trees.

A CHP officer holds his shotgun at ready in the early morning mist as they attempt to take two tree sitters into custody. The shotgun was loaded with non-lethal rounds ( TWN Debbie Clark)

A CHP officer holds his shotgun at ready in the early morning mist as they attempt to take two tree sitters into custody. The shotgun was loaded with non-lethal rounds ( TWN Debbie Clark)

Officers first began cutting and removing the ropes in an attempt to reduce the tree-sitter’s mobility. The tree-sitters retaliated by throwing feces from their own waste buckets at the officers.

The officers persevered, eventually confining the two sitters into one tree. A small black cat was removed from one of the platforms by officers. The kitten was handed off to one of the protesters.

The officers gave the two tree-sitters several opportunities to surrender. Once it became clear they were not interested in leaving the tree voluntarily, one of the CHP officers went into the top of the tree and began climbing down to capture them. The other officers remained in the boom trucks, holding shotguns containing bean bag bullets. After a game of cat and mouse, officers caught up with Katz who had tied himself onto the tree. As Katz continued to struggle, refusing to get into the man-lift bucket with the officers, an officer in the other bucket shot several times at Katz’ lower extremities with rubber bullets. Officers took him into custody and were transporting him to a local hospital as of press time before taking him to Mendocino County Jail. Katz told witnesses on the ground he was okay, but had been shot in each leg and in the “gut.”

The officers who effected the extraction were specially trained members of the CHP Special Weapons and Tactics team with climbing experience, says CHP Officer Steve Krul.

Tree-sitter Rain struggles with officers as they attempt to take him into custody. He was shot in the legs and gut with beanbag bullets moments later. TWN Debbie Clark (TWN Debbie Clark)

“Katz violently resisted efforts to arrest him,” says Krul. “At one point he grabbed onto an officer at about 70 feet off the ground. This left the officers with no choice but to fire non lethal bean bags to help secure him.” Katz also swung a rope with a metal carabiner at officers as they tried to take him into custody, says Krul.

Katz was arrested on suspicion of trespassing, assault on a peace officer, obstructing a peace officer, and assault with a deadly weapon. Weilbach was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer and trespassing.
A large crowd of witnesses on the ground, who had gathered at the fence line to watch the antics, at first believed the officers had used lethal force to secure Katz. They swarmed under and over the fence and it took several minutes for officers to push them back. Scott Tenney was arrested on suspicion of trespassing and obstructing a peace officer.

Once Katz had been taken into custody, Weilbach willingly got into the man-lift bucket and surrendered.
The crowd of officers began to shift towards the other two tree-sit locations by afternoon.

2 Responses to “Tree sitters blocking Willits bypass route pulled from trees”

  1. bearspawprint April 3, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    Reblogged this on bearspawprint.

  2. Walker April 3, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    a “peace” officer…right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: