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UC Berkeley tree sitter Squirtle smokes a cigarette while sitting in a grove of trees in front of Memorial Stadium on Tuesday. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
BERKELEY _Using a crane today, arborists hired by the university removed platforms, ropes, tarps and buckets of human excrement that tree sitters had been stockpiling in the trees.

The move came a day before a judge is expected to rule on lawsuits that could bring the 18-month tree sit at the Berkeley Oak Grove to an end.

University spokesman Dan Mogulof said today that a group of tree sitters have been stockpiling their urine and feces in buckets and were tossing them down from the trees.

University officials say they removed traverse lines, wood platforms and other items for safety reasons. At least three people have fallen from the trees and been injured since the tree sit began in December 2006.

A crane was onsite removing items, but not people, Mogulof said.

``At this point, we have no plans to physically remove them from the trees. We are putting pieces in place to make it difficult if not impossible for them to stay.'' he said.

``It's really unfortunate that it's come to this. The university has tolerated more than 280 violations, including weapons, assault and battery. We are now doing everything we can to bring this to a safe and certain end,'' Mogulof said.

Police cordoned off the oak grove with barricades as tree-sit supporters arrived at the site. About 30 supporters were mulling around outside the grove and many were angered by the university's move, calling it a ``hate crime.


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A tree sitter who identified himself as ``Squirtle'' said he was standing on a line in a tree when it was cut. ``They cut it and I luckily I had my support line above me,'' he said. ``I threw piss all over them (because) they are trying to break the law. They almost killed me.''

Today was not the first time university police have hired professional climbers to remove items. They did the same thing in February because of safety and sanitary concerns, said Mogulof.

Today's action started about 6:30 a.m. when at least five contract climbers went into the oaks, where 6-12 people have been living since Dec. 2, 2006 to protest the university's decision to build a $125 million sports training center on the site.

Cal is facing three lawsuits from the city of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation over the project, which they worry will bring more traffic and noise. The suits also focused on safety. The training center would be would just feet from the Hayward earthquake fault.

The consolidated lawsuits have been tied up in court and Judge Barbara Miller is expected to rule on Wednesday. Miller's decision will come nine months after a trial in Alameda County Superior Court was held. Since the trial she has asked for additional written information and arguments in court.

A decision in Cal's favor would give them the right to remove the trees _ and the tree sitters.

The university last year put up two chain- link fences to prevent people from going in and out of the tree grove, but tree sitters have set up an elaborate rope and pulley system to get food, water and other supplies into the grove.

Oak Grove supporters are expected to gather early Wednesday morning to await word of the decision. The grove is located in the 2000 block of Piedmont Avenue in Berkeley, one block north of Bancroft Way.