Protests from the (tree)top down

  • THE ART OF RESISTANCE: Old-growth activists at a 1998 gathering in a Northern California redwood forest

During the late '90s, dozens of activists camped out in the treetops of Northern California's Headwaters Forest, protesting clear-cutting by Pacific Lumber. Their months - and even years - above the ground didn't save the entire forest, but they managed to protect a few of the oldest groves. The tree-sits also drew intense media attention and made Julia Butterfly Hill a celebrity (HCN, 3/15/99: Julia Butterfly won't come down).

Tree-Sit: the Art of Resistance, a new film produced and directed by James Ficklin and Penny Andrews, documents those protests. Much of the film was shot with a handheld camera from the activists' perspective, looking down at loggers as they chainsaw surrounding trees. At one point, a dreadlocked protester is nearly decapitated when the base of a falling tree misses his head by inches. Later, we watch from the treetops as a logger climbs up and dismantles a platform in a nearby redwood.

Tree-Sit doesn't pretend to be objective and unbiased, but it does show loggers and activists in conversations that bring out the sympathetic sides of both groups. The film presents an intriguing view of an activist subculture and documents the coalition-building between labor and green interests.

The Headwaters Action Video Collective is currently showing Tree-Sit on college campuses and will eventually make the film available on video. More information can be found at or contact HAVC, P.O. Box 2198, Redway, CA 95560 (707/925-0012).

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Mason Adams

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