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(Video) Willits Tree Sitters Removed and Arrested in Highway 101 Bypass Protest

| April 2, 2013
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Warbler has come to earth.

Police arrested the 24-year-old tree sitter, whose real name is Amanda Senseman, on Tuesday morning, bringing an end to her two-month act of civil disobedience aimed at stopping a Highway 101 bypass construction near Willits.

A supporter said police arrested two other tree sitters as well, reportedly after firing a projectile at one who refused to let go of his tree.

More protesters reportedly remained in other trees on the site at noon, with multiple California Highway Patrol officers in the area.

This video posted by Emerald Triangle News appears to show a demonstrator shot with a rubber bullet.
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The law enforcement operation included cutting down the ponderosa pine where Warbler had been living.

The officers also arrested two people, Sara Grusky, 56, and William Parrish, 31, on the ground, said officer Steve Krul.

Supporters of the protesters said the CHP used cherry pickers to remove Warbler, and began approaching other tree sitters. “It’s a really tense situation here,” Kelly Larson, a local electrician told KQED’s Polly Stryker. “I’m really worried for everyone’s safety.”

Police reportedly used a cherry picker to arrest tree sitters. (Kelly Larson)

Police reportedly used a cherry picker to arrest tree sitters. (Kelly Larson)

Two protesters strung lines between trees and suspended themselves in the middle of the lines, where CHP officers in cranes were pointing guns at them, said Larson, who was on site to join the protest. “It’s really crazy.”

Later officers began cutting the line, forcing the protesters to retreat to a tree where the officers caught them, said Larson. Krul, who said he would not comment on tactics used to remove the protesters, could not be reached later in the day.

Other protesters are screened off from the construction site by fences, with about 50 officers “in full riot gear” on guard, Larson said.

Police take William Parrish and Sara Grusky into custody. (Steve Berhard/The Willits News)

Police take William Parrish and Sara Grusky into custody. (Steve Berhard/The Willits News)

Krul said the CHP gave the tree sitters multiple warnings before deciding to remove them. Warbler, a farmer, demanded that the work halt while Caltrans negotiated an alternative to the bypass. On Thursday she began a hunger strike.

The pine where Warbler lived was located on the southern outskirts of Willits in Mendocino County and overlooks Highway 101. She, along with the group Save Our Little Lake Valley, are trying to block the construction of a four-lane, six-mile, $290 million highway bypass around town.

Caltrans has planned the bypass since 1988 and says it’s necessary to allow through traffic to avoid the bottleneck of downtown Willits, where U.S. 101 narrows to two lanes.

Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie said the trees were in the path of the planned bypass and had to be removed for the project to go forward.

Currently traffic slows while passing through Willits, resulting in daily delays of 15 to 20 minutes that can stretch to two hours at busy times, said Frisbie.

Larson said that the opponents had suggested multiple alternatives to the project which will disrupt farms, ranches and wetlands. “There’s a huge amount of environmental destruction that’s going on,” she said.

Frisbie responded that the agency had exhausted the other possibilities.

“We investigated and eliminated over 30 potential alternatives for this project,” he said. “If there was a better, less expensive alternative as these people propose, then we would have gone with that.”

protester on the ground willits

A protester lay on the ground after his arrest. (Steve Eberhart/The Willits News)

In addition to speeding traffic, the project will reduce air pollution from diesel trucks which emit more particulates in stop-and-go traffic, Frisbie said.

Since February the CHP has made 16 arrests in the project, said Krul, sometimes arresting the same protester more than once.

Officers charged most, including Warbler, with trespassing, a misdemeanor. Often people arrested on that charge are released the same days as their arrest, he said.

But he was not sure what happened to Warbler after officers took her to the Mendocino County jail.

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Category: Environment, Transportation

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lilith.rogers Lilith Rogers

    How brave a bird has Warbler been–thank you. How awful that they are destroying this environment for human convenience. And that they cut down her tree! I’m sure that Caltrans didn’t really explore the quite good alternatives that have been suggested.

  • Chris

    I suppose you would rather be choked with diesel fumes while trucks idle in your city. Caltrans has done a great job mitigating the environmental affect. Its time to respect the process and the law.

    • Brad Little

      Agreed!

      • Spire

        Mr. Frisbie, is that you again?

    • http://www.facebook.com/SkyLoveDancer Venus Elisha Ehrhardt

      I hope you like the NWO

    • Spire

      ha haha hahahahahahahahaha hahaa Hear the one about the 3 inch bolts on the new Bay Bridge’s superduper earthquake-proof feature? 30/100 broke when sampled. Good goin’ CalTrans!!! We’re in your hands. God help us.

      Mr. Frisbie, is that you?

    • Spire

      btw. air quality in Willits is in the 96% range relative to the nation. You assholes are robbing our water, and shipping it down to favored real estate in Redwood Valley.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004185698490 Madison Blues

    The longest I have waited at the so-called bottleneck is 7 minutes.
    I’ve traveled during “rush hour” and all seasons and all hours of day.
    This 6 mile hi-way is a ridiculous waste of money, resources and most
    importantly the beautiful environment here. Once the trees and wetlands
    are plowed over and the critters are chased away, it will be DONE. And
    we will all be sorry for this. This is DESTRUCTION of our planet, PURE AND SIMPLE. It is over-kill.
    Besides that, if you look at a map, Willits is the biggest city for
    quite a few miles and it seems to me the truckers will have to stop here
    ANYWAY for conveniences.
    I applaud Warbler and the other tree sitters who took a brave stand.

    • New Resident

      Well, before I ever even considered moving to Mendocino Co., much less Willits, I remembered waiting for over a half an hour just to turn on to Hwy. 20 to go to Fort Bragg on vacation. As a local resident now, I dread certain times of the day because of the bottleneck and after parking in front of a local business to keep the services local, I can honestly say that the traffic situation will only deter me from using local businesses due to the unsafe conditions not only trying to park, but also trying to get back into my car. I am a new resident to Willits and don’t have support either way, but this is my opinion in the short time that I have had to deal with the bottle neck, which I have to go thru every time I leave the house! If I were a traveler, I would never even consider trying to stop at one of the local businesses due to the unsafe traffic conditions.

      • http://www.facebook.com/antonia.partridge Antonia Partridge

        The bypass will not solve the problem of delays getting from 101 to Hwy. 20 as there is no interchange. According to CHP only 20% of current traffic on Willits streets will likely use the bypass so it will give little relief to Willits traffic congestion. The bypass is poorly designed, over built, and not safe. Its 4 lanes has a peek capacity of 80,000 cars per day; the current average load is only 5,000 cars per day on hwy 101 north of Willits. I support a bypass, I do not support this bypass. At $290,000,000 it is a senseless waste of tax payer dollars with little benefit.

    • Eric

      You must not get out much. I’ve lived in Willits my entire life and a 10+ minute wait is the norm beginning at 3PM. That is unless you cut everyone waiting their turn off by using the right lane that has signs saying “do not pass”. Oh by the way, the majority of the traffic isn’t due to truckers heading north, it’s residents of Brooktrails. There will be an exit just past the high school for all the Brooktrails residents to skip traffic, thus cutting the congestion. Get a clue… and a job!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-V-Kirk/1145828995 Eric V. Kirk

      I have questions about the necessity of the bypass, but I’ve been delayed for periods of time much longer than seven minutes – on at least two occasions it took me a half hour to get through Willits.

    • Spire

      Falcon, Willits Treesitter interviewed on Day of Violence, soon before his arrest.

      http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/90312

      • Spire

        NEW!! Willits Caltrans Bypass Protest Video Page

  • Caleb Radice

    More fascist ops.

  • Eric

    The judge should sentence those hippies to community service for wasting tax dollars (which they don’t pay) and pick up the brush after Caltrans cuts it all down

    • http://www.facebook.com/SkyLoveDancer Venus Elisha Ehrhardt

      what an idiot you are.. Taxes are stealing from us anyway..

      • Eric

        You have to pay taxes to say the gov. is stealing from you. What do you think pays for your precious welfare/ unemployment?

    • http://www.facebook.com/tracy.avent Tracy L Avent

      the news item said that the girl was a farmer, not a “hippie” and even if she were the latter, if she is a citizen she has rights.

  • DGR

    Thank you Steve, Kelly and Laird! <3 Hearts stay strong!

  • Kyle

    I remember when they put in the bypass around Cloverdale. How’s that city doing economically now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-D-Lancelin/1641171337 Patrick D Lancelin

    same instigaters using young well meaning kid’s to get them killed so they can use it to media {DONATIONS} i can name every single leader and money taker in this saga.
    this by pass was a done deal. they the attorneys that direct theses actions are consireing to blackmail a deal from ?? do you know? i do. i will post the first list now. my name is PL
    i live at 445 stafford rd scotia. i take care of a redwood tree on the hill that was struck by whitelightning. you can come up and see me sometime and we will pray for a miracle.
    see sapiscnn on you tube. good luck , thank-you
    PS : PREPARE/

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.fran.96 Rob Fran

    hopefully wabler, caspian, and celcius (tree sitters) have to get mandatory delousing and pay restitution for CHP costs!!! I hate soap dodgers

  • John Piper

    It’s true that Willits has a traffic problem that should be solved. I think everyone agrees it could be better, but without a Hwy 20 interchange or addressing the local traffic problem (there are no other thru roads in town), the traffic problem won’t improve for most people. This isn’t an environmental problem– it’s a ‘bridge to nowhere’ that will barely be used by anybody, at great expense to taxpayers. Caltrans has consistently ignored cheaper solutions, and there has been no public input since 2002. Once the facts are known, this will be an embarrassment to Congress, just like other Bridges to Nowhere, like the ones in Alaska. It’s time to fix Willits traffic problem logically.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emeraldtrianglenews Emerald Triangle

    11:00 AM, 4-2-13,Willits CA California Highway Patrol extracts and SHOOTS TREE SITTER http://youtu.be/WndaxiUflaM . The tree sitter took stand against Caltrans planned $250,000,000 Hwy 101 Bypass through endangered wetlands near Willits California. Thank Goodness the tree sitter did not fall out of tree, and the bullets were less than lethal, either rubber or bean bags.
    UPDATE: Evans Statement on Willits Bypass Sanator Noreen Evans Response to Today’s CHP Actions:
    Tuesday, April 2, 2013
    Sacramento, CA –Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) issued the following statement in response to today’s removal of Willits Bypass Project protestors by the California Highway Patrol (CHP):

    “CHP was deployed to remove the protestors of the Willits Bypass Project just hours before I was set to meet with the director of Caltrans to have my questions answered. According to some reports, protestors in trees were extracted by CHP using “rubber bullets”, and that CHP officers significantly outnumbered protestors.

    “I am shocked and dismayed at what seems to be an excessive use of force on unarmed protestors.

    “Thus far, I feel Caltrans and CHP have been slow to respond to my questions and quick to act regarding the Bypass Project.

    “It also was extremely disturbing to learn that the press was excluded from observing the removal of the protestors.

    “I had asked to be kept informed on a daily basis prior to any extraordinary action on this project as I represent the 1.3 million Californians living in the Second Senate District where this project is taking place. Regretfully that did not happen today.

    “I met today with Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty to express my dismay at today’s events. I have additionally requested an immediate meeting with CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow.

    “I urge everyone to remain calm and for protestors to remain peaceful in their opposition.” – CA Senator Noreen Evans

    State Senator Noreen Evans represents the Second Senatorial District, including all or portions of the Counties of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Marin (caretaker), Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Senator Evans Chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary and is the outgoing Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. http://youtu.be/WndaxiUflaM

  • http://www.facebook.com/luciaroseanna Lucia White

    Frisbie saying that there is 2 hour traffic delays is a bold faced lie! I have grown up in Willits, gone to school here and been driving through this town since I was 15. Never have I waited more than 7-8 minutes. The statements by Caltrans are false by every definition! The proposed alternate bypass does NOT disrupt farmland or wetlands, in fact the purpose of the alternate bypass is to NOT disrupt the environment. Caltrans on the other hand, has had to procure a permit for THE LARGEST WETLAND FILL IN 50 YEARS! Frisbie indicates he doesn’t want to pave wetlands, which is precisely what they are about to do! Caltrans will build this freeway on seismically unstable ground and it will require a lot of upkeep, it will complete one more part of their plan to have an another unbroken freeway stretch to the Oregon border for the trucking industry and provide a route for nuclear waste transport. These are only a few of the reasons Caltrans has brushed off the pleas of more than half of our community to consider the economic and environmental repercussions this project will have. There is an online petition and a conventional petition against this bypass and together they have gathered more than 3000 signatures and counting. Help join in the fight to SAVE THE LAST PRISTINE AGRICULTURAL VALLEY IN ALL OF CALIFORNIA!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mlranft Mark Ranft

      I have been timing myself ( I oppose the current bypass but WORK and pay taxes) each day going and coming from work. 3-5 min in the am and about 5-10 in the pm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luciaroseanna Lucia White

    “The Little Lake Valley — aka the Willits Valley in Mendocino County, CA — is threatened by an environmentally disastrous Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) highway construction project called “The Willits Bypass.”

    Willits is in The Little Lake Valley of California’s Coast Range mountains, 140 miles north of San Francisco. Travelers literally can’t miss Willits — US Highway 101, the region’s main inland artery becomes Main Street through the center of this small town, population 5,000 (including Hwy 101′s first traffic light north of the Golden Gate Bridge).

    Caltrans’ Willits Bypass Project would:

    • Drain and fill in 86 acres of wetlands — the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in 50 years.

    • Build a 6-mile-long, 200-foot-wide, Interstate 5-sized highway through Little Lake Valley just east of town in order to bypass Willits.

    • Devour wetlands, oak forests, meadows, native plants, Ponderosa pines groves, habitat for northern spotted owls, habitat for coho salmon, habitat for steelhead trout, habitat for the endangered tidewater goby (fish), and prime farmland (1/3 of the valley’s farmland would be affected).

    • Release massive greenhouse gases from construction into the atmosphere — over 80 years’ worth compared to the “savings” from reduced stop-and-go traffic in town.

    • Cost over $300 million taxpayer dollars!

    • Override the objections of the majority of Willits’ citizens and business owners.

    Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration claim the Willits Bypass Project will ease traffic congestion on Main Street, but studies show 70% of Willits traffic is local and therefore would not be improved.

    Reject this Willits Bypass and advocate less environmentally harmful, less expensive alternatives presented as early as 2004. As the old proverb goes, “No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back.”

    To learn more about the campaign, check out: SaveLittleLakeValley.org

    To make a secure online donation to Save Little Lake Valley through Paypal, click here.

    PayPal securely processes donations for Earthmind, Inc dba Willits Economic Localization (WEL). Earthmind, a 501(c)3 organization.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlranft Mark Ranft

    Incorrect reporting, Caltrans plans to build a 2 lane bypass, though during the so called public hearings they rejected all requests for 2 lane alternatives. The Warbler in fact was not so much protesting but promoting a better alternative and promoting responsive government.

  • Spire

    Falcon — Willits Treesitter interviewed on Day of Violence

    http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/90312

    • Spire

      Willits Caltrans Bypass Protest Video page

  • Spire

    New Video: CHP Shooting Treesitter
    “They Shoot TreeSitters, Don’t They?”

    • Bystander911

      I can’t open your link for some reason. But here’s the full unedited version where you can see all the dangerous stuff that the tree sitter was doing, swinging from tree to tree, throwing feces & grabbing the cop and resisting arrest. This gives the full picture of why he was shot with a bean bag pellet gun. Nomad films removed the obscenities that the sitters yelled out. They even admitted that they dont endorse what the tree sitters did anymore after watching their own video. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=p0iZaUS8QGc&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dp0iZaUS8QGc