Cops Arrest Tree-Sitters In L.A.

Actress Daryl Hannah salutes supporters of the South Central Urban Garden as she's removed from a tree Tuesday, June 13, 2006, in South Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Ric Francis
Hours after deputies evicted farmers and their supporters from a mini-farm in urban Los Angeles, some would-be protesters remained at the site's entrance.

Seventeen people on the 14-acre plot were arrested early Tuesday. Two of them, plucked from a walnut tree where they'd been for days, were actress Daryl Hannah and environmental activist John Quigley, famed for his tree-sitting tactics.

Another 27 demonstrators who were outside the green area were also arrested, for blocking the street.

The several hundred who regrouped by the fence Tuesday night say they fear landowner Ralph Horowitz may bring in bulldozers to begin leveling the plots. If the 'dozers show up, the protesters say they'll block the gate.

The farm, within the city limits, has walnut trees, avocados and many other crops – tended by about 350 neighbors and lauded by even the mayor as "an oasis in a sea of industry and concrete."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the evictions "unfortunate, disheartening" as he expressed frustration that a deal could not be reached despite months of negotiations with Horowitz.

"Every time we seem to get close, it unravels," said Villaraigosa, stressing that Horowitz would not "commit to preserving this land for urban farming."

The owner of the land says he's allowed the farming for years, but feels at this point he ought to get a "thank you" for the over 14 years of free use of his land which he now wants to use for a warehouse.

Tuesday morning, it took hundreds of law enforcement officers – arriving in the pre-dawn hours - to remove the protesters from the trees and surrounding streets.

When it all was over, the garden was under guard by men in black T-shirts marked with the word "Security," tire marks ran over crushed plants, and young fruit trees and corn stalks lay toppled on the ground.

Maria de Jesus Cruz cried as she surveyed the damage from outside the garden, where she said she had farmed for nine years. A chain-link fence that enclosed her plot of land lay on the ground.

"Everything that was here, they destroyed," said Cruz, 42, who grew onions, lemons and nectarines.

"This was right in the center of the city, a nice, green place with flowers and plants," she said in Spanish. "We liked coming here to spend our time."

Some of the damage appeared to have been caused by a small earthmover that cleared a path for fire truck that was brought in to pluck Hannah and Quigley from their perches high in the branches of a walnut tree in the middle of the garden.

The pair raised their fists as they were brought down in a fire truck bucket.

"Daryl, we're with you!" protester Jenny Flores yelled through a megaphone from a nearby street.