Seventeen days after protester Michael Schuck -- aka Fresh -- climbed into an oak just north of Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus, tree-sit opponents mobbed the tree last Friday calling for Schuck to follow the rules for public discourse and get out.
Schuck, 23, finally did come down, and was cited by police for illegally lodging and trespassing and released, a university spokesman said Friday.
He said he came down from his perch because anti-tree-sit people and his supporters debated the issues he was promoting peacefully and respectfully.
"I felt like my mission had been accomplished," Schuck said after being released from police custody. "I went up there to raise awareness and start dialogue on campus."
Schuck climbed into the tree near Sproul Plaza on Feb. 25, protesting the university's deals with BP and Dow Chemical, the housing of 13,000 Native American remains on campus, and UC's involvement with nuclear weapons. Schuck, who is not a student, was also calling for the democratization of the UC Board of Regents.
No one opposed Schuck's right to his opinion or his protest of campus policies. But, for some, living in a tree didn't seem like the sensible way to make a point.
"He has the right to protest, but climbing a random tree on campus seems like the wrong way of going about it," said sophomore Scott Nightingale, who was at the rally.
Calum Wright is one of the students who launched Students Against Hippies in Trees on the social networking site Facebook.com.
"It's not a normal thing to do, to go up a tree and live there in aid of so many causes," said Wright, a freshman. "He doesn't have one specific thing he's trying to change. It's a joke. It started off as the trees, then it moved to bones, then nuclear weapons, then anti-BP and now it's anti-regents. I mean, make up your mind."
A few days after Schuck went into the tree, campus police put up a metal barricade around the tree and stationed officers there.
Last Friday, campus police used a cherry picker to try to remove Schuck from the tree. They confiscated some of his belongings, but he defied them by moving higher in the oak.
Student Tyler Brandt said all the police presence was a waste of university money.
"We are here to illustrate that (Schuck) does not have the support of the student body, and I think it's ridiculous that (the university) is wasting all this money on this."
But Schuck said his two weeks living in a tree with little more than a blue sleeping bag, water and a small amount of food that was covertly lifted to him, was well worth it.
"(Today) started with some heated argument but then went to a dialogue circle, and that is exactly what I hoped to achieve," he said.
The rally at the tree started about noon when Students Against Hippies in Trees squared off with Friends of Fresh.
"We students are here to support the positions Fresh has articulated, such as democratizing the UC Regents and canceling the BP contract and releasing the 13,000 Native American remains held at the Phoebe Hearst museum," said Matthew Taylor, a fifth-year peace and conflict studies major. "Fresh is raising awareness among the students."
Taylor said he didn't mind that the opposing group wanted their voices heard. But he did object to the Internet postings on Facebook.com that were "filled with hate speech," he said.
"Instead of angry confrontation, let's have a dialogue," he said.
In fact, that is exactly what happened. After a short screaming match between the two sides, people sat down on the cement below the tree and started a "dialogue circle."
About an hour later, Schuck climbed down from the tree and was carted off by university police. He received a citation that mandates that he appear in court next month.
That's OK, he said.
"(Living in a tree) was amazing, it was beautiful," he said. "I met so many people and got to connect with people who really want to inspire change."
His supporters called last Friday a success as well.
"Today was a huge success," UC Berkeley junior Jessica Schley said. "Today was the day that we can move forward with this movement to democratize the Regents of the University of California. We want to do it because we believe students are not being acknowledged in their needs."
Neither side became violent, and no arrests were made at the rally.
Schuck's tree-sit is over, but the one near Memorial Stadium continues. Since December 2006, a group of people have been living in trees in an oak grove near the football stadium to protest UC Berkeley's plan to build a $125 million sports training center on the grove.
Eight to 10 people continue to live and sleep in those trees. A court injunction is preventing any construction on the grove site. Plans are tied up by lawsuits, which were scheduled to continue in a Hayward court on Thursday.
Reach Kristin Bender at 510-208-6453 or kbender@bay areanewsgroup.com..