CHP, Caltrans block food, water deliveries to Willits protesters

Tree-sitters in Willits were met with an ultimatum from the CHP this weekend after protesters looking to deliver fresh supplies were denied access into the Highway 101 bypass construction zone.

"We're not denying the tree-sitters food and water," said CHP Capt. George Peck on Monday. "If they want it, they can come down and get it themselves."

A man attempting to deliver food to the tree-sitters within the construction site Saturday was turned away by CHP officers, said Sara Grusky, an organizer for Save Our Little Lake Valley.

The CHP agreed to refrain from arresting the three tree-sitters if they voluntarily remove themselves from the trees, said Mendocino County Caltrans official Phil Frisbie.

Construction of the $210 million bypass around Willits, started Feb. 25, was stalled for a week because of birds nests found along the route, then resumed earlier this month.

The Willits bypass controversy sparked a number of demonstrations last week, with eight protesters arrested for trespassing within the construction zone and more than 80 construction workers rallying downtown calling for an end to the bypass delays.

Frisbie had originally stated Friday that food and water deliveries could be made as long as protesters did not interfere with construction.

The decision to end access and deliveries to the tree-sitters was mutually made between both CHP and Caltrans over the weekend, Frisbie said. It came after Caltrans delivered official notice to all three tree-sitters Friday that they were trespassing within a construction zone.

"I'm very concerned about them," said Grusky, who was one of those arrested Thursday. "I just don't want anyone to get hurt."

Amanda Senseman, 24, has been sitting in a pine tree just off of Highway 101 since Jan. 28. On March 18, two unidentified men in their mid-20s mounted similar protests, taking up residence in two pine trees directly in the path of construction.

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