With the clock ticking as the three-week restraining order against removal of the downtown area ficus trees approaches its deadline, Santa Monica’s Treesavers redoubled their efforts to build support for saving the trees.
On Saturday, October 20, Jerry Rubin and other activists began a fast for the trees, announcing their action at a press conference at 2nd Street and Broadway, under one of the trees slated for removal and composting. The fast was scheduled to last for at least a week, until October 26, when a judge was scheduled to rule on the legality of the City’s plan for removal of the trees. That hearing has been taken off the calendar in view of the protection of the pending landmark applications.
Rubin called for a moment of silence for the trees, which was followed by the group toasting the trees with cups of “Green Juice,” and a man who sang the song “Trees” (from the poem by Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree”).
“This is not a hunger strike,” said Rubin, who has fasted for many causes in the past. “This is an activist fast.” He said that the activists were to “fan out” along the Third Street Promenade and other downtown streets to collect signatures on a petition to be given to the City Council at the October 23 meeting, where the activists were again planning to speak before the Council.
Not all of the activists were fasting, and some said they were only going to fast for a day or two, depending on their health.
Louise Steiner, one of those who was fasting for a week, said, “Yes I will miss eating things I love and hunger pains may hurt temporarily. But after my week of forgoing foods, I will again enjoy these things I gave up. But when our trees are needlessly slaughtered, I shall never be able to enjoy them again, and the profound pain of that loss will be forever.”
Charles Fredricks, another faster, commented: “I’m here because I recognize that we live in a symbiotic relationship with nature. If it were not for nature, we wouldn’t be here. These trees create the coolness we’re enjoying right now. We need these trees.”
Several students from Santa Monica High School and other local schools also joined the fast. One of them, who gave her name as Mara, said, “These trees have been here for so long and they’re not ready to die.”
Also at the press conference, Freida Dubin of Wilmont (Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Association) announced that Wilmont had made an official statement opposing removal and destruction of the trees. The Santa Monica Democratic Club had already voted to endorse the Treesavers.
Rubin expressed hope that the filing of an application for landmark designation of the trees, which came through on October 16, will keep the trees safe. But he still wanted to see the City Council act to change the plan to uproot the trees.
“We’re hoping the City will stop this adversarial approach to us,” said Rubin. “We love the City. It’s time they started supporting us.”