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Bear Mountai tree sit dismantled, forest destroyed, everyone arrested
by Kalanu
Thursday Feb 14th, 2008 12:40 AM
For ten months forest defenders protected a rare and sacred patch of forest on the edge of British Columbia's capital city of Victoria, on Coast Salish territory.

This morning 50-75 heavily armed police officers swarmed in and arrested 3 sleeping campers and removed another three from tree sit platforms.
The land in now being cleared for an interchange that will serve a luxury golf resort for the super-wealthy elite.
As you may have already heard by now, the tree sit has been forcefully removed from the end of Leigh Rd. and the destruction of this sacred area has already begun.

The Bear Mountain tree sit had been erected in the path of a proposed interchange last April. I've spent seven of the last ten months living full-time in the camp. This morning my home, my community and the land that had been sustaining us, was ripped apart, and we are lost with shock.

Last night, after a wonderful evening around the fire with the people who had become my family, I went to sleep up in one of the tree sit platforms. We knew we were facing some kind of showdown this morning, (having received a tip from a trusted local) but we assumed it was going to be another attempt by the city to survey the area. We had already stopped survey work seven times, and each time the survey crews had been accompanied by municipal by-law enforcement operators who would threaten us with obstruction charges, but leave with the city crew every time we shut down work.

We thought maybe this time the situation would escalate RCMP officers accompanying surveyors into the forest, willing to arrest people for obstruction.

The thought of an early morning SWAT type raid has always been a possibility, but at any of the other tree sits in BC, a court injunction had been used to remove tree sitters. During the seven times we had stopped survey work, and during a few surprise visits by local RCMP officers, the city had gathered what we thought would be all the necessary evidence they would need for an injunction. Yet they hadn't even applied for one yet.

This morning, just before dawn, I watched from my platform as a half dozen flashlights appeared in the kitchen area below me. I watched as more flashlights arrived and began to quickly scatter throughout the forest. As the sun came up I noticed about a dozen RCMP officers at the bottom of my tree, and they noticed me. In the next hour, as they attempted to talk me down, more officers arrived, some armed with assault rifles (weapons that look like machine guns) and ‘less-lethal’ bean bag shotguns.

I asked them if they had an injunction and they informed me that I was to be arrested for mischief, though they could not name which section of the criminal code I was being charged under.

I continued to refuse and they continued to move forward.

At one point I saw one of the SWAT team members fiddling with something on his assault rifle, as another officer informed me that there was no one left in the woods but myself and lots of cops. I was told that neither my lawyer, my support team or media would be allowed in the forest. At this point I was getting quite worried for my safety. I was again informed that the only safe way for me to come down would be voluntarily, and when I notced a half dozen people in climbing gear I made the decision to come down from the tree and try to find out whether everyone else had gotten arrested and whether a call had been made for more support to show up.

I was handcuffed, read my rights, had my knife taken away and was led out of the forest.

On my way out I passed literally dozens of SWAT team looking fellas, some with dogs, everyone with lots of gear, spread out all around the woods, keeping a perimeter and standing guard at every possible trail junction.

To call it overkill would be an understatement. Estimates range around 75 officers from all over the island and from the mainland, executing a well-organized pre-dawn para-military assault on the forest. Protests went on all day around the small city, and the towm was swarming with unmarked police cars and rental vans filled with shock troops.

After I was being removed from the forest I could hear my brothers, Noah and Luke, shouting from their platforms, and the last thing I heard from Luke was him yelling “Free the Buffalo!!” (referring to me if you couldn’t guess).

Noah held out for a few hours before they extracted him, and Luke held out another couple hours after that. It sounds like Luke had a bit of fun with the traverse lines before they finally got him down. The climbers would ascend one tree, and Luke would traverse to the other.

We learned this from a few brief phone calls Luke made from his cell phone before we lost contact with him. Otherwise, none of us had any contact with the other tree sitters after I was led out. A huge perimeter was set up, those of us arrested were told we would be arrested again if we came anywhere near it, and even the press were not allowed anywhere near the area.

Not soon after I came out, a huge feller/buncher machine came by. This is a giant machine capable of harvesting many trees at once. It has to be one of the more destructive pieces of machinery I’ve ever seen. I started yelling at the driver to go home, that we weren’t letting him in, and two other people stood in the middle of the road to block it’s path. One of those two people was Ingmar Lee, who has been quoted in the media enough times over this issue that he has been targeted as a ‘leader’. The RCMP wasted no time in slamming Ingmar to the ground and hauling him off to jail.

Three of my brothers, who I love dearly, are still in jail as of this writing, and we have no idea when they will be let out. We are told they are waiting to be processed by a justice of the peace over the phone from Vancouver and that it may happen tonight, and it may happen tomorrow morning. Several of us went down to the police station and asked about the arrestees and were given many conflicting stories from the officers as to when we could expect to see our brothers again.

From there we went to the storage facility where our belongings from the treesit were being stored. We managed to claim some equipment and personal gear, but a few personal backpacks and sleeping bags, not to mention a half dozen bikes and the Food Not Bombs bike cart were taken to the dump. Our ropes and climbing harnesses (with the exception of the one I wore out of the forest) have been seized as evidence.

Two of the other campers (who were woken earlier today with machine guns and attack dogs in their face, arrested and released) have had their sleeping bags thrown away. This on top of the fact that their home has just been bulldozed.

I still have not had a chance to properly grieve the loss of this beautiful place, and I have no idea what to do next. I feel, to quote one of the other tree sitters, like I have lost a limb. This land is more than sacred to me and I when I finish this article, a long, brutal day will wind down and I will shed many tears.

And I will think of my heroes, my brothers, Luke and Noah and Ingmar, and hope they will be released tonight and be able to sleep tonight with people who love them.

We lost a great deal today, more than most people will ever know. The owls returned to nest this week, along with other migratory birds, and I could hear the birds chirping even as the trees were being cut. Yesterday I was ecstatic to discover new young nettle plants sprouting near the kitchen.

Today I am devastated because it is all gone. So much food and medicine. Gone. Another piece of priceless First Nations heritage, gone. It is too much for me and I am going to wrap it up here, as I’ve said enough.

Many thanks to everyone who came out this morning to witness and who have vowed to continue fighting. This is not over. This is far from over. A serious crime against nature has been committed today and we will never forget that.

Much love and respect and see you all soon.

-in solidarity with all life,
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question & thanks for KalanuTim RumfordFriday Feb 22nd, 2008 10:25 AM

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