Judge issues court order to remove protester from tree

1 week 3 days 8 hours ago Sunday, November 03 2019 Nov 3, 2019 Sunday, November 03, 2019 3:19:00 PM CST November 03, 2019 in News
By: Peyton Headlee, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA — It has been almost a week since Sutu Forte began protesting the Hinkson Creek trail extension, 23 feet off the ground in a tree. 

The protests on Bluff Dale Drive could soon come to an end. A judge issued an order Friday to remove Forte from the tree before Nov. 8. With construction slated to start on Monday, protesters guess her eviction could take place then. 

When law enforcement comes to enforce the eviction notice, Forte has a plan to remain in the tree. 

“When the sheriff comes, she is not going to leave her tree,” Pat Holt, a supporter of Forte, said. “She has a chain, a pretty big chain, and she will chain herself to the tree.”

Brian Johnstone is on the board of 'It’s Our Wild Nature' with Forte, a group committed to preserving the natural environment of Columbia. He said the board is not too fond of her plan. 

“Myself and the other board members are highly concerned about the issue of noncompliance of law,” Johnstone said. “We want Sutu to be compliant with the law. We don’t want her in danger. We don’t want any law enforcement in danger when they try to bring her down from the tree.”

KOMU 8 attempted to speak to Forte, however, she refuses to talk to anyone on Sundays. Holt said she uses Sundays as a day of worship. 

“She takes Sunday as a day of rest and communing with her higher power, so on Sunday she doesn’t talk to us,” Holt said. 

Some protesters joining Forte plan to spend the night at the bottom of the tree and said they won’t leave until she does. Others just want her to be safe. 

“Sutu doesn’t need to stay there much longer, she is an older person and the cold damp nights and the inability to walk or stretch from the platform area isn’t healthy to her,” Johnstone said. “I think she’s having some physical problems now, but they are only going to get worse the longer she stays up there, but I guess that is part of the protest too."

Columbia Public Works started work for the construction project on Friday. A truck went up and down Bluff Dale Drive installing signs restricting parking from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays for 90 days.

Wendy Hofmann is one of the many people who gave their support of the project in last year's city council meetings. 

"I don't like riding bicycles on the road and I feel that anything that gets people walking and riding bicycles instead of being in their cars is a good thing," Hofmann said.

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