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Benefit Sunday for former Berkeley tree sitter severely injured in Israel

Kristin Bender | The Oakland Tribune

9 September 2009

Six months after Tristan Anderson, a former UC Berkeley tree sitter and Bay Area activist, nearly died after being struck in the head with a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli troops, friends are holding a benefit Sunday to raise money for his recovery costs.

Anderson, 38, remains at a rehabilitation hospital near Tel Aviv and continues to have setbacks and infections after skull surgery last month, supporters said.

The operation came after doctors learned Anderson was suffering from post-traumatic hydrocephalus, a blockage of the ventricles — open spaces in the brain — that causes poor circulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the head, supporters said.

“His girlfriend, Gabrielle Silverman, and his parents are hopeful and giving Tristan as much encouragement and support as they can, even though by all appearances he is struggling to get better,” said friend Karen Pickett. “There has been progress, but there have been times when they have lost ground because there have been setbacks.”

Anderson, a freelance photojournalist, sustained life-threatening injuries March 13 as he was taking photographs after a regular Friday demonstration over Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, Pickett said. He was struck in the right temple with a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli troops, according to peace activists with the International Solidarity Movement.

His skull was fractured, and some of the bone fragments entered his brain, friends said. He sustained a large hole in his forehead where he was struck by the canister, and he was blinded in his right eye, friends said.

The benefit is at 8 p.m. Sunday at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley. There will be music from Rebecca Riots, a female folk trio; the Funky Nixons; American Indian singer and songwriter Phoenix; spoken word, an art auction and an update on Anderson.

The doors open at 7:30 p.m., and organizers are asking for a donation of $5 to $20 to cover Anderson’s recuperation costs. The event is sponsored by Friends of Tristan and Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. For details, call 510-548-3113 or visit justicefortristan.org.

“We are trying to raise as much money as we can in support of his recovery costs,” Pickett said. “But it’s also a time to raise support and let people know what is going on with Tristan, and to make the point that things are still serious and he needs continuing support.”

On the day Anderson, of Oakland, was injured, there were several hundred protesters in the West Bank town of Naalin, where Palestinians and international backers frequently had gathered to demonstrate against the barrier. Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep Palestinian attackers from infiltrating into Israel, but many Palestinians view it as a thinly veiled land grab because it juts into the West Bank at multiple points.

Before going to the Middle East, he was involved in the tree-sit at UC Berkeley to protest the building of a sports training center. That protest lasted 21 months, but Anderson, who was known as “Cricket” during the sit, did not sit in a tree the entire time.

It is not known how long he was in the trees, but he came down from his perch on June 19, 2008, and was given a stay-away order, police said.

He was found near the tree-sit the following day, arrested and sent to trial, where he was found not guilty. The tree-sit ended last September, when the university razed the trees.