On the Picket Line

“Picketing is a form of protest in which people (called picketers) congregate outside a location where an event is taking place. Often, this is done in an attempt to draw public attention to a cause.”

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It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been on a picket line.  Tonight I joined a few intrepid activists on Mission Street to protest the Salem Hospital’s removal of 32 trees yesterday from the former site of the Blind School…a site the Hospital has earmarked for parking and development…and worst of all their desire to remove the remaining 9 white oaks from the property.  The oaks are really why we all were there tonight.  Many of these trees predate white settlement…why cut down a 290 year old tree?

As I’ve thought about it over the last few days I’ve come to REALLY WONDER why the hospital doesn’t get on the “good” side….Why they don’t say…”Yep, lucky for us we have 9 historic white oaks on our property and we are going to celebrate them, to incorporate them into our building plans, and into the story we will tell this community about who we are, and who they are.”  It would be so simple…a slight plan revision, but simple.  It would buy enormous neighborhood and community goodwill.  (It would get us off their backs.)  They aren’t very nuanced though…so this won’t happen.

So, since we have no effect whatsoever on the Hospital and its plan, why picket?  As I stood there tonight, watching organizer Lois Stark speak to each protestor, thanking them for coming out on a cold and foggy night, I thought that I was glad to be there…to think that if things happen you don’t like in your community, you must stand up and say so.  So we did.  And Lois Stark plans to be on Mission street every night for a week from 5-6 leading chants, welcoming picketers.  Bring your own sign…

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and these were my personal favorites…made by artist Jon Colburn…


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  1. It is bewildering as to why ‘they’ the hospital & ‘they’ the planners & ‘they’ the architects, would all contrive to create a plan that demolishes these great old trees. As you so well said, it would take so little to save them. If any of ‘them’ had a thought of this earlier, it would have taken no extra effort to somewhat honor the site. (and been a huge P.R. ploy!) Did any of them actually look at the site, maybe even WALK it, experience it as a real place before making their plans? Thanks for being on the front line!

  2. It was wonderful to have you join the group last night. You brought an elegance to the event. I’m hoping that the newspaper article will at least make some members at Salem Health consider what they are doing by threatening these great white oaks.
    Thanks for helping to spread the word.

  3. Thanks, Bonnie…why can’t the hospital find a creative solution to saving the trees when they’re into all sorts of other creative solutions? A David and Goliath situation!

    1. Creative solutions are often things that become loved by a community, no? And really, to even think of cutting down a tree that germinated in 1750 seems…short-sighted.

    1. “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,

      but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel, via Karen R.

  4. Thanks for the update. A disheartening situation. I recall the other arboricide.

    Would you like to crosspost to the local ecologist blog?

  5. Why was I not surprised to visit your blog and discover that you have been on a picket line? You are a breath of fresh air and an inspiration Bonnie Hull. Trees deserve our protection, to have survived over 290 years is not something to take lightly.

  6. Thanks for doing this, Bonnie. I am so sad, just reading this. It’s so easy to incorporate trees into a building plan. The hospital is making this a dirtier and warmer world, in addition to an uglier one.

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