LOS ANGELES – Sheriff's deputies evicted people from an urban community garden to make room for a warehouse Tuesday, touching off a furious protest in which actress Daryl Hannah and others climbed into a walnut tree or chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels. At least 39 people were arrested.
Authorities cut away branches in an effort to remove the "Splash" actress and another tree-sitter.
"I'm very confident this is the morally right thing to do, to take a principled stand in solidarity with the farmers," Hannah said by cell phone before a fire truck raised officers into the tree.
About 350 people grow produce and flowers on the 14 acres of privately owned land, in an inner-city area surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks. The garden has been there for more than a decade, but the landowner, Ralph Horowitz, now wants to replace it with a warehouse.
At daybreak Tuesday, 120 deputies, some with batons and riot helmets, showed up to serve an eviction order that a judge signed last month. Deputies used saws to cut down the chain-link fence around the site.
Dozens of protesters chanted, "We're here and we're not going to leave!" in Spanish, blew whistles and blocked traffic in the surrounding streets. Protesters linked arms and sat on the tracks. Officers dragged some protesters away.
Inside the garden, firefighters had to cut free protesters who had chained themselves to the walnut tree, barrels filled with concrete and a picnic table. Deputies slowly pulled people out from among the avocados, sunflowers and other produce.
By late morning 14 people were arrested inside the farm and 25 were taken into custody outside.
Horowitz noted that the farmers were squatting on land zoned for warehouses and factories. The landowner said in a telephone interview that he was paying $25,000 to $30,000 a month in mortgage and other land costs.
"We've made, in the last three years, enough of a donation to those farmers," he said. "I just want my land back."
Horowitz accused the farmers of ingratitude, saying they had sued him and their supporters had picketed his home and office.
"I feel that the gardeners have been on the land for 14 years, almost 15 years for free. After 15 years, you say thank you," he said.
Horowitz also said the city had provided other locations for the gardeners, and most had left. In a statement, City Councilwoman Jan Perry also said many gardeners had moved to new garden sites.
The effort to save the farm attracted the support of numerous activists and celebrities, including Hannah, environmental activist John Quigley, country singer Willie Nelson, actor Danny Glover, folk singer Joan Baez and tree sitter Julia Butterfly Hill.
Supporters moved onto the property full-time in mid-May and occupied the walnut tree after the judge issued the eviction order.