June 13, 2006

Hannah, protesters evicted from LA urban garden

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police and firefighters evicted
actress Darryl Hannah from a walnut tree on Tuesday and removed
dozens of other protesters from a Los Angeles community garden
destined for destruction.

The action by police, some in riot gear, ended a three-week
campaign to save the garden oasis in the midst of gritty south
Los Angeles that had attracted supporters ranging from singers
Joan Baez and Willie Nelson to hundreds of residents.

Hannah and a fellow tree-sitter raised their fists in
defiance as officers using a fire ladder and chain saws cut
through branches high in the tree and moved in to arrest the

In the past three weeks, Baez and anti-logging activist
Julia "Butterfly" Hill have taken shifts in the tree, but
neither were in the garden when some 65 police showed up
without notice at daybreak.

Hannah, an environmental activist and actress best known
for playing a mermaid in the movie "Splash," had spent 23 days
in the tree.

Police said 15 other people were arrested on the property
during the seven-hour operation to clear the 14-acre
(5.7-hectare) garden, which has been tended for a decade by
some 350 local residents, most of them immigrants.

The land has been the subject of a years-long legal fight
between the Los Angeles City Council and a private developer,
Ralph Horowitz, who finally won his ownership case in court.

Horowitz wants to build a warehouse on the site. Last month
he offered to sell the land to backers of the garden for $16
million but they were able to raise only about half that sum.

"It is a tragedy for the farmers and a tragedy for the
people of Los Angeles," said Dan Stormer, a lawyer for the
community group.

Some protesters chained themselves to picnic tables and
concrete barrels on Tuesday to resist eviction.

Outside, dozens of supporters blew whistles, chanted in
Spanish or sat down in the streets as news of the eviction
spread through the neighborhood. About 25 were arrested for
blocking street intersections, police said.

Police said Horowitz had obtained an eviction order last
month and had decided to execute it.

Supporters of the garden say it is the largest urban farm
in the nation. In recent weeks, several Hollywood celebrities
dropped by or voiced their support, including Leonardo
DiCaprio, Ed Harris and Martin Sheen.