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Pacific Lumber Moves on Protesters At David Chain Death Site

by Nicholas Wilson

Tree sitters defeat attempt to evict them
Two Headwaters Forest tree-sitters came under siege yesterday by climbers from Maxxam/Pacific Lumber and Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies at the site where David Chain was crushed to death by a felled redwood in September.

In related news, the sheriff's department revealed that it has finished investigating Chain's death and sent a report to the D.A.

The siege began about 10:30AM as deputies and PL employees arrived at the Grizzly Creek logging site in a half-dozen all-terrain vehicles, according to a witness. Two PL treeclimbers took the sitters' supplies and equipment from the two activists, including their climbing ropes. But the sitters shackled themselves to the treetops to resist being removed, making this the first known lock-down in a tree.

An activist identified as Adam told KMUD radio news yesterday that the siege lasted about six hours. At the end, the sitters, a man and woman named "Bird" and "Lily," were in their trees with no way down, and Bird was locked by his neck to the treetop and unable to unlock because he had dropped the key while trying to do so.

PL climbers not only took all the tree-sitters' ropes, platforms, and other gear, but also cut off all the lower limbs from the trees to prevent other activists from climbing up to reach the sitters, who were without food, water, shelter, or warm clothing.

Rescuers were able to reach the two last night, resupplying them and cutting Bird loose from the treetop, according to Jeff Davis at the EF! office in Arcata. He said the rescuers had to cut off the 3-4" diameter treetop in order to free Bird because they had no way to cut the hardened lock, and the sitter was in danger from freezing temperatures. Bird was reported to be still in the tree today, with the U-shaped Kryptonite lock remaining locked around his neck.

Chain Report Done
The sheriff's department has completed its long-awaited investigation of the September 17 death of David Chain. The report was forwarded to Humboldt D.A. Terry Farmer.

KMUD reported Wednesday that Farmer confirmed his office received the report last Friday, December 4, and was reviewing the extensive information, and hoping to make an announcement soon as to whether any charges would be brought.

Sheriff's homicide investigator Juan Freeman told the Monitor in October that A. E. Ammons, the PL employee who felled the tree that killed Chain, was not a suspect in any crime. Chain's mother Cindy Allsbrooks said in November that Freeman told her he intended to recommend charging the seven EF! activists who accompanied Chain with manslaughter.

PL says it's trying to remove protesters for their own good
Commenting on yesterday's raid, Adam said "It's blatant disregard for not only the crime scene where our brother David Gypsy Chain got killed but also blatant disregard for the living humans who are trying to defend these redwood trees on such a steep slope." He said the tree-sit is only 40 ft. from the spot where Chain was killed. "The only reason these trees are still standing is because David Chain put himself between the destruction of the forest and the destructor," said Adam, "and because they are still standing, we are determined to protect them." Since Chain's death, EF! activists have said they are protecting the evidence at the crime scene because the sheriff's department has not done so.

Both Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis and PL President John Campbell told KZYX radio news yesterday they were not aware of any action against the Grizzly Creek tree-sitters. PL pulled out its logging equipment from the site in late October and dug drainage trenches across the logging road for the winter rainy season. PL's logging operator's license was revoked for the rest of 1998 by the California Department of Forestry for multiple violations of the logging rules. However, the company can still hire contractors to log the forest under their own operating licenses.

But student Rabbi Naomi Steinberg said she was able to reach PL president John Campbell yesterday to ask him why the company decided to remove the sitters, who had been in place over a month. She said he replied it was out of concern for the health and safety of the sitters due to high winds and freezing temperatures and for the sitters' own good.

Jeff Davis said today that he found Campbell's statement hypocritical since the sitters had been doing fine for over a month until PL employees removed their protection from the weather and their climbing gear and left them stranded in the treetops. Davis said two dozen activists were on the mountaintop this morning when several deputies returned and ordered them to leave. But after a dozen activists linked arms and sat down at the base of the occupied trees, the officers shot some video and left, with the two tree-sitters still in place and now resupplied. In response to the siege, EF! is preparing to put additional tree-sitters up at the site, expecting additional efforts by law enforcement and PL to remove them.

Julia Butterfly Tells National Media of Siege
By coincidence or design, the attempt to evict the tree-sitters came the day before the one-year anniversary of Julia Butterfly Hill's record breaking and world renowned tree-sit near Stafford, about eight air miles away, but closer to 35 miles by road due to the steep and rugged terrain.

Butterfly, who was in direct radio contact with the Grizzly Creek sitters, was busy spreading the word about the siege. Robert Parker, her support coordinator, said Butterfly had been receiving "an overwhelming number of media calls" over the last few days because of great interest in her reaching the one-year mark. He said she had spent all day today on the phone doing interviews with national media, telling them about the issues surrounding the death of David Chain and the fact that a siege of the tree-sitters at the site was taking place.

Julia Butterfly also spoke with KMUD news, saying of these developments, "What appalls me the most is that the sheriff's department is doing Pacific Lumber's security job. I've been doing interviews all day long, and one of the things I've been talking about is how naive I was. When I first came out here I thought it was just this big bad company that was destroying the forest. And over my year up here -- and more than a year's involvement with this area -- I've learned that this big bad company wouldn't be getting away with much of what it does without the help and assistance of a government, from the local level all the way to state and federal, that's allowing this company to continuously destroy the forest and destroy people's lives and to continue to act in an illegal way."

Asked if she trusted PL's statement that she was welcome to stay in her tree as long as she liked, and if today's siege of Grizzly Creek made her fear PL might come for her next, Butterfly replied: "One thing I've learned about PL is they're not trustworthy; they've been proven time and again to not be worth their word. I was raised in a family that taught that a person was only as good as their word is, and PL has proven that their word means nothing. I would hope that in this instance they would keep their word and not put my life in danger like they have done before, but ultimately that's up to them. I'm prepared, one way or the other."

The official one-year rally for Julia Butterfly will be held Saturday, December 12 at noon, at the Stafford exit from Hwy. 101, just south of Scotia, where PL's main redwood sawmill is located. The event will be held rain or shine, and may include a long climb to the base of Luna, as Butterfly has named her tree. Participants are advised to bring rain gear, snacks, water, and hiking boots.

The news departments of Humboldt County's KMUD, FM 91.1, and Mendocino County's KZYX, FM 90.7, contributed greatly to this report. Thanks to Estelle Fennell and Annie Esposito

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Albion Monitor December 10, 1998 (

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