Arrow wasn't planning on risking his life when he walked up to the Robert Duncan Plaza building in downtown Portland on the evening of July 7. But as he gazed at the front of the red brick building at SW 2nd and Oak, Arrow suddenly knew what he had to do--climb up to the third story ledge above the front doors. With local television news cameras rolling, Arrow walked up to a front wall and did his best Spiderman imitation, quickly scampering up to the nine-inch-wide ledge, 30 feet above the sidewalk, before anyone could stop him. With other protesters cheering him on, he promised to stay on the ledge until the Forest Service canceled the sale.
The spontaneous protest soon became a media circus. Downtown workers and shoppers stopped and stared in amazement at the man on the ledge. All of the local radio and television news stations began making regular pilgrimages to the building, setting up live shots for the 5, 10 and 11 pm broadcasts. Arrow enjoyed the coverage and made himself as available as possible. He borrowed a cell phone and was soon granting interviews with local
reporters and anyone else who got his number. He greeted each caller with a chipper, "Tre on the ledge."
Within a few days, it was clear that many Portlanders were taking him to heart. Numerous drivers honked and waved at him as they drove by. KOIN-TV rented a cherry picker so Channel 6 news anchor Mark Donahue could interview him eye-to-eye. Even the comic KXL AM radio tag team of Dave and Dwight conducted several light-hearted interviews with him. And the supporters who set up a base camp on the sidewalk also proved to be a friendly lot, cheerfully answering questions and marking the sunsets with tribal drumming sessions.
Exotic interviewed Arrow several times during his protest. What follows is an edited transcript of my discussion with Arrow while he was out on the ledge.
EXOTIC: What inspired you to climb the building? On TV it looked like a spur of the moment decision.
ARROW: It was spontaneous. I was basically just trying to create a little spectacle for the rally to protest the raid
(evicting the eagle Creek tree sitters). There was some talk before we came down of not even doing the rally because it was afterhours--Forest Service personnel would be gone from the building, people would be gone from work, so some people were afraid it would be a flat, loser of a rally. So I thought we needed to do something big to create a spectacle; so I looked at the building and saw how easy it was to climb it, and I did.
EXOTIC: What made you an environmental activist in the first place?
ARROW: Well, I consider that basically a divine awakening several years ago. All of a sudden it was like I woke up and started thinking about things in a different way. I started realizing that you could reuse things instead of just continuing to throw things in a landfill--the reduce, reuse and recycle concept. From there, my eyes were open to the truth and to living consciously. It wasn't any one thing. It was just an awakening, really.
And from there I began to read more books, be involved with more groups and organizations which provided me with more and more truth. The other
side you never hear about, the information and the facts and statistics about the state of our health, about the state of the planet, that animals were being exploited and abused, that this planet was being exploited and abused, that there are many human rights issues, that people are being exploited and abused--all in the name of corporate money and greed, and the power of government to control the masses.
EXOTIC: Had you been politically active in any way before that?
ARROW: Yeah, but I'd never done such direct actions, and I wanted to. I live without a vehicle, biking instead of driving, not buying one scrap of paper, only using recycled paper, not buying anything new, buying everything used to cut down on the consumer impact on the planet, living a very straight, healthy vegan diet, which is eating lowest on the food chain to have a minimum impact on the planet, not wasting energy, not wasting water, all the way down the list... and I still saw the world crumble around me. I still saw the injustices, the slaughter of trees, you name it, and I realized it's not enough; it's not enough to just live my life con
by Jim Redden
By now most Portlanders have all but forgotten about Tre Arrow and his high-wire protest act. Arrow lived on a narrow, third-floor ledge outside the regional offices of the U.S. Forest Service for 11 days. The local media stopped covering the story when he came down on July 17 and was charged with contempt of court. But while he was in the media spotlight, the 26-year-old environmentalist spoke eloquently about the plight of the planet, including the controversial Eagle Creek timber sale which prompted his remarkable personal stand.
Out on a Ledge by Jim Redden
sciously, I need to do some direct action that will put myself right on the front line of an issue to really stop some of the heinous injustices that are going on with our planet and with ourselves, and every species, really.
EXOTIC: Have you had much support, aside from the other activists who are camping out with you?
ARROW: The support is overwhelming. When you have Mayor Vera Katz writing a very supportive letter encouraging Region 6 Forester Harv Forsgren to cancel the sale; when Senator Ron Wyden, Representatives David Woo and Earl Blumenauer, the city council, the county commissioners, and much of the public are here, it's not to hard to realize that it's an issue which affects us all, and most people are very, very supportive, actually.
EXOTIC: I can hear cars honking in the background and that sounds like support. Have you had anyone yelling insults at you?
ARROW: Very, very few, actually. The fact is, we're defending over 500 acres of roadless area, we're defending a watershed that is the water supply to over 185,000 Oregonians. This is a breeding ground for salmon, and clear cutting clearly destroys the salmon eggs, leading further to their probable extinction. It's also a breeding ground for endangered species (Spotted Owl). So this is an issue that concerns us all, and that all of us are starting to address.
Another thing is that Eagle Creek was sold under the Salvage Rider Law back in 1996. It suspended all environmental laws for a certain amount of time, which is why we're protesting it. Under current laws, it would be illegal. But it can't be challenged in court. It's only defense is us, "we the people" defending it. Non-violently giving our lives, our money, our freedom to protect our land and our watershed and our trees. This is it. All the rest (Salvage Rider Sales) have been cut.
EXOTIC: What are you going to do when the police come to force you down?
ARROW: I can't speak to the future. I can only speak to the present. The future doesn't exist. Right now I'm staying up here until this is over.
Arrow came down on July 17 under orders from Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Ed Jones. He cleaned up the ledge before making a short speech to hundreds of supporters and onlookers.
"This isn't about me or you, it's about all of us coming together as one.
We can no longer take the abuse. We are destroying our land. The government and the corporations are lying to us. It's time we realize we can no longer take the slaughter of our rights, the slaughter of our health, the slaughter of our planet in the name of greed. They're slaughtering the planet in the name of corporate dollars and greed. But this action has been a huge success, a humongous catalyst so we can take back our power and ensure justice across the land."
With that Arrow waved to one of the circling newscopters, turned and blew kisses at the photographers and federal employees in the lounge, then rappelled down the front of the building, pausing just above everyone's head to turn upside down and flash the peace sign. He dropped to the sidewalk where he was embraced by a number of his supporters and swamped by no fewer than four TV news cameras and almost a dozen microphones.
"I had no choice but to come down if I wanted to avoid a violent confrontation," he said, "and I am not a violent person. Let it be known I am for peace, and for spreading health.
"This is not over by a long shot! Everyone get on buildings! Everyone get to the woods. I love you."
Arrow then surrendered to the Portland police, who transported him to the downtown Justice Center jail where he was charged with criminal trespass and contempt of court, and then released on his own recognizance. That was when the press learned his real name, Michael James Scarpitti. When he was arraigned the next day, the trespass charge was dropped, leaving him facing only the contempt of court charge. After consulting attorneys Greg Kafoury and Stuart Sugerman, Arrow agreed to plead guilty at a final hearing in early August. There was no sense fighting the charge--the entire town saw him staying on the ledge after he was ordered to come down. But more than that, civil disobedience protesters intend to face the consequences of their actions--that's what makes their protests meaningful.
"The essence of civil disobedience is you take your punishment," says Kafoury. "People who really believe in something and who are willing to put their necks on the line are very threatening to most people."
The Cascadia Forest Alliance can be reached at 241-4879. Their website is