In another life, Gezi Gardens was just another on-ramp for a San Francisco highway. An earthquake caused it to collapse, leaving a road to nowhere. The trees at its’ base survived the devastating quake. They stood for years, like proud veterans, preserved among the perennials at the Hayes Valley Farms. Since June 1st,
Liberate the Land activists and the broader community have been successfully transforming and holding the space in an effort to save these trees and the surrounding fertile ground.
At 1:30am this morning, a raid of Gezi Gardens was executed. With only a 2 minute warning, 100+ riot cops entered from the back end of the farm and evicted everyone inside. Now, as I write hours later, reports have come in that some of these elder trees have fallen. The cutters and bulldozers came four days earlier than scheduled and began leveling the ground within a few hours of the raid, while an aggressive police line guarded the empty farm.
Construction, though, has temporarily halted as new evidence of a protected bird emerges. The Allen hummingbird, a rare creature protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703), has been discovered nesting in Gezi Gardens.The report and photographs of its’ existence were provided by a consultant biologist, (who was hired by the development company) who was brought in to do an adhoc survey of the bird’s nesting sites. However, some independent experts are arguing that such a proper survey could not have been performed that quickly. This discovery, if confirmed, could lead to permanent preservation of the land as a wildlife habitat and a game-changer for the developers still hoping for condos. It is a glimmer of hope for Liberate The Land after the violent and sleepless night before.
According to witness testimonies, at 1:45am people were woken up by alarms , signaling that the space was being raided. Some were woken up by the riot cops themselves, batons drawn. The warning and subsequent threat of arrest for trespassing was announced via megaphone by the riot police.
Then they began their sweep, hurrying and threatening people as they packed and gathered their things. People were escorted out the gate, in a single-file order, with each person escorted by a cop and kept 10 feet apart from the next. The evicted were taken two blocks away and continued to be harassed there as they regrouped.
Realizing the tree-sitters, 3 in total, were still hanging on without any support, the group circled back to Gezi Gardens and witnessed and documented their evictions. When they got to the corner of Laguna and Fell street, two arrests occurred at ground level in the park. Over the course of a few hours, three more randomly selected arrests were made on the sidewalk. Cherry pickers also arrived to pluck the tree-sitters. Two were removed peacefully, but one of them was released from jail with a fresh black eye, reportedly from the knuckle guard gloves of an officer, the equivalent of brass knuckles. The third sitter, hanging from his safety rope, appeared to suddenly fall 40 feet out of the tree. We can’t be sure what happened until the sitter is released from the hospital and police custody to tell their story. The officer involved in the incident claims that the individual “jumped to escape arrest.” However, video footage taken by an on-site livestreamer tells a different story. (Video Link Below via @CarrieM)
It’s being reported the sitter sustained only minor injuries after landing on foam padding that, luckily, had been laid down by the police.
Simultaneously across town in the Visitacion Valley area of San Francisco, a double-homicide was committed. The shooting received NO police response. Apparently all available officers had been deployed to the corner of Laguna and Fell and were too busy evicting peaceful protestors.
In total there were 8 arrests, 2 of which required hospitalizations from the raid. Throughout the day several additional arrests have been made in the Gezi Garden area, which was shut down for the construction.
Gezi Gardens inspired both creativity and solidarity, just as its’ name was inspired by the brave people of Turkey. Dozens of people contributed their time and resources to this space. Within a week 8 tree sits had been constructed. A fully functioning kitchen provided a daily buffet. Visitors were greeted by an info table and folks eager to chat. Bands had come to perform. Skilled individuals had come to teach. And the best part? A future organic food source had been planted everywhere. All we wanted was to protect a place meant for all of us, a public square where organic food could be free and abundant. We envisioned a place for music, art and gardening to harmoniously collide with the walks of life that entered. Gezi Gardens is the first of three permaculture spaces in the area to be partially destroyed this year….so far. Now the question remains-
Will the community fight for Gezi Gardens or will it let the last veteran tree fall?