Berkeley’s infamous tree-sitters have been hit with a rude surprise since they came down to earth: Judges are socking them with thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees.
Ironically, much of the money – which could total more than $10,000 per sitter – is going straight to the University of California, the very institution the tree-sitters were protesting as they tried to save a grove of trees outside Memorial Stadium. . .
UC Berkeley estimates it spent more than $800,000 on police and other security measures during the 22 months sitters were up in the trees. The university spent $40,000 alone on the scaffolding that went up around the final tree during the last day of the protest this month. . .
So far, most of the 15 to 20 protesters arrested in the past year have been hit with fines of about $100 for trespassing and little or no jail time.
Once they were back on the street, however, the university hauled them back into court on contempt charges for violating an order issued in October by Judge Richard Keller of Alameda County Superior Court that banned people from sitting in the trees or doing anything to help the protesters already up in the branches.
Protesters Eric Eisenberg, Michael Schuck, Gregg Horton, Terri Slanetz and Matthew Taylor were found guilty last month of violating Keller’s injunction. Each was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and two were sentenced to serve five extra days in jail.
The university is also seeking as much as $10,000 from each of them for its attorney fees. . .
Lawyers on both sides said the tree-sitters’ chances of beating the contempt charges are slim.
As Cunningham noted, “You were either up in the trees or not. What’s to argue?”
Defying the government is sometimes the right thing to do, but you have to weigh the expected benefit against the expected cost. I think these protesters failed to do so.