by Ryan Burns
More than 100 protesters gathered this afternoon outside the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 1 office in Eureka to voice their opposition to the Richardson Grove Improvement Project. The project, which has already received environmental approvals, would remove several trees along Hwy. 101 through Richardson Grove State Park to facilitate a road realignment. The adjustments to the road's curves would allow longer, industry-standard cargo trucks to pass through the ancient grove.
None of the trees scheduled for removal are old-growth redwoods, but opponents of the project say the roadwork could damage the ancient root systems and overall health of the trees. Lawsuits have been filed in both state and federal court challenging the project. Caltrans Public Information Officer Julie East said the agency is currently advertising the project to contractors for bid, and construction will begin no earlier than this summer.
While Caltrans describes the project as "minor adjustments to the roadway alignment," protesters issued a harsher assessment today: "They're gonna fuck up our community! They're gonna take away everything we love!" one angry picketer yelled.
More images of the protest below.
This youngster (age 13) was brought to the rally by his family. Asked why he wasn't in school he looked embarrassed. "I'm sick?" he said.
At the scheduled start time of noon, attendance was still a bit thin. But the crowd grew steadily over the next 20 minutes, and before long the languid drum circle (or "drum triangle," since I counted just three "drummers") gave way to defiant chants of, "One demand -- cancel the plan!"
Speakers took to the PA system to announce a new activist supergroup -- Richardson Grove Action Now! -- with a new approach to resistance: direct action. An "action camp" training is scheduled for this weekend. (Meanwhile, materials provided by that group, including a rally poster showing tanks, emblazoned with the Caltrans logo, rolling through the redwoods and displaying the battle cry "RESIST INVASION," have sparked a mini-controversy in their own right.)
While activists created their own cardboard protest signs, police officers took to the roof for a better view.
Word came in this afternoon that protesters had locked themselves together in metal pipes inside the Caltrans offices.