Trail protest comes to an end as woman leaves tree

Posted on 5 November 2019 at 9:54am

COLUMBIA - Sutu Forte's protest of the Shepard-to-Rollins trail connector project came to an end Tuesday morning.

On Monday, officials said they would enforce a court order requiring Forte to vacate the tree before Nov. 8th. She had occupied the tree since Oct. 28.

Columbia Fire and Police and the Boone County Sheriff's Department arrived to enforce the order around 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. They escorted her from the tree around 8:30 a.m.

Officials say Forte was taken to the Boone County Jail. She was issued a citation by the Boone County Sheriff's Department for trespassing and was then released.

Neighbors and protestors came out to support Forte and sang "This Little Light of Mine" as she was taken into custody.

One supporter said she admired Forte's decision.

"I have the greatest respect for her," Rena Ruth said. "I could not have lived in a tree and been subject to arrest. I mean, its not like she's a rich person who can do anything like that. It's her passion."

A KOMU reporter heard Sutu crying while she apologized to her supporters for not being able to do more.

The City maintains that they plan to replant the trees that have been cut down to make the trail.

"I truly believe people will be proud of this project," City of Columbia Director of Community Relations Steve Sapp said. "We will put it back together as best as possible."

The tree Forte occupied started to get cut down today, and is expected to be finished in the next couple of days.

Her belongings were removed by the Columbia Fire Department and friends took them back to her house.

(Editor's note: the story was edited to clarify that Forte was notified that the court order would be enforced sometime before Nov. 8. A previous version stated that she had until Friday to vacate the tree. The story was also edited to clarify she was taken to the Boone County Jail, not the Boone County Sheriff's office.)