We got to know Tristan Anderson when he was perched in the branches of the oak and redwood grove outside UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, a participant in the country’s large urban tree-sit.
Protesters hoped to save the grove, which was marked for destruction to pave the way for a hugely expensive seismic retrofit and the construction of a high tech gym at the site of the trees.
Anderson, who went by the “treesitter name” of Cricket, was eventually rousted form his perch and arrested by campus police, ultimately pleading guilty to trespassing charges. In return for his plea, he was allowed to do 50 hours of community service in lieu of jail time and a fine.
In the end, the grove was levelled, and California taxpayers have been left on the hook for a bill that could well total over a billion dollars.
After his arboreal eviction and plea bargain, Anderson headed to the Middle East, where he joined protestors five months after his final court date.
On 13 March 2009, he was shot in the head with a teargas cannister fired by an Israel soldier during a protest confrontation over confiscation of land to extend the infamous “
ghetto separation wall” to the village of Ni’alin on the West Bank.
As we reported at the time for the Berkeley Daily Planet:
After he was injured, the Oakland resident was rushed to Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, where he underwent surgery for multiple skull fractures, according to published accounts. His condition was further complicated Tuesday when he developed pneumonia, [longtime friend Kate] Raphael said.
“Fortunately they caught it in time,” she said.
According to Ha’aretz, the media office of the Israel Defense Force said the demonstration site was a closed security zone, off-limits to protests. The military said demonstrators had thrown rocks at soldiers, prompting the use of tear gas.
Raphael said she has known Anderson for eight years. The activist is an artist, and had been introduced to activism in his youth because of his concern for the environment, she said. “He felt it was very important to support the tree-sit,” she said.
Raphael said she had first learned of Anderson’s injuries in a phone call from Israel Friday morning.
“He’s really interested in archaeology and was excited about going,” Raphael said.
Marcus Kryshka met Anderson 18 years ago when they were both doing homeless advocacy work in Berkeley.
“He has worked extensively with Food Not Bombs,” Kryshka said. “He was also heavily involved with the tree-sit.”
Anderson, critically injured, suffered permanent and severe brain damage, spending more than a year in an Israeli hospital, after which he was confined to a wheelchair.
After a cursory “investigation,” the Israel government declined to prosecute the solider who fired the shot.
But Anderson’s friends and family have refused to accept the government’s indifference, and joined by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din filed a petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice, demanding the investigation be reopened.
The hearing was Wednesday.
Allison Deger reports on the outcome for Mondoweiss:
“What do you care,” repeated Deputy Chief Justice Miriam Naor about six times to the government lawyers as they protested taking another look at the facts. Justice Naor wasn’t having any excuses. She said before the trial’s recess if the state didn’t decide to re-open the criminal investigation, her court could order it. That was a big threat and the attorneys knew it.
So they folded. They did the only thing they could do. They stood before the court and announced they will re-open the investigation into the wounding of Tristan Anderson. The four rows of supporters exchanged smiles. But the show wasn’t over. The state attorneys again stated they don’t think investigating will lead to anyone being charged with a crime. Sfard jumped and interrupted. He and Schaeffer had just won, but they want a serious inquiry and won’t take the lackadaisical attitude. “To say this before the investigation has even happened,” said Sfard later, “what should the family understand? What should the police understand? That they are not to conduct an investigation?”
Judge Naor and the two others on the panel concurred with Sfard and railed at the state attorneys. If moral fortitude could produce wind and shake people like trees Na’or would have unleashed a tornado in that courtroom. She was clear; it is unacceptable for the Israeli military to continue skirting their obligations to Anderson’s shooting, to Anderson’s family. She gave the state four months to finish their investigation. The ruling could mean that Anderson’s case is the first of its kind to hurdle pass this preliminary stage.
Here’s a video segment captured immediately after Anderson was struck:
For more information and to catch the latest updates, see the Justice 4 Tristan website.