Three people were arrested early Thursday during a scuffle with UC Berkeley police near Memorial Stadium, bringing to five the number of arrests this week in connection with a long-running protest by tree-sitters camped out in a grove.
Protesters and their supporters have been engaged in a waiting game with university officials since a judge ruled last month that the university can remove the tree-sitters. The protesters have been in the grove for 11 months in hopes of saving about 100 trees from a proposed $125 million sports training center.
The clash early Thursday was not an attempt by authorities to clear the tree-sitters from the grove. But over the past week, university officials did erect a large fence around the trees in an attempt to cut off supplies to the tree-sitters, angering the protesters and their supporters. The university installed a smaller fence in August.
The clash happened around midnight, said UC Berkeley Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya, when about 50 supporters of the tree-sitters arrived at the grove and a security guard saw someone cutting a hole in the fence.
Police arrived, and an officer tried to make an arrest, Celaya said. "As he was doing that, another person came down to one of the lower branches to try and help the individual," the chief said. The officer "got in a tussle with both of them and pulled one guy out of the tree."
The tree-sitter was identified as Aleksey Maromyguin, 20. Several supporters interfered with officers as they arrived, and two - Clara Luna, 40, and Nathan Pitts, 27 - were arrested on suspicion of battery of a police officer, resisting arrest and being in violation of a court order, authorities said. Maromyguin was booked on suspicion of trespassing with intent to damage, resisting arrest and violating a court order.
Four officers hit by an unidentified liquid that Pitts allegedly threw were treated at a hospital after several complained that their eyes were burning, Celaya said.
Some protesters disputed the police account and said officers had shown up at a peaceful protest in riot gear.
"We went to deliver sage and tobacco and water to the tree-sitters, because we had heard earlier that (police) were denying them food and water and threatening people helping them with arrest," said a man identifying himself only as Ayr. "We got the stuff up to them and we were doing some chants and songs when one of the tree-sitters came down and started cutting the fence."
Ayr accused the officer of "choking and beating" the tree-sitter.
Two other protesters were arrested Wednesday. Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 44, was arrested around 1:30 a.m. for vandalism and trespassing with intent to damage after he allegedly tried to cut the fence. And Wednesday evening, Siddique Daneyel, 33, was seen handing a metal box to one of the sitters; he was arrested for violating a court order, Celaya said.
Since the protest began, UC police have issued about 200 citations for trespassing. The question of whether UC can build the training center could be answered by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller, who is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit filed by the city, tree advocates and neighbors seeking to block construction.
E-mail Marisa Lagos at email@example.com.
© 2007 The San Francisco Chronicle