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Environmentalists, Actor Arrested in Golden Golden Gate Bridge Protest

November 24, 1996 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Nine demonstrators, including actor Woody Harrelson, were arrested Saturday after they scaled the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge to demand that the government protect a 60,000-acre redwood grove.

Hanging from rock-climbing gear, the protesters stretched out banners high above the roadway while bridge officials and California Highway Patrol officers waited for them below.

Harrelson and the others dangled 200 feet above an all-day traffic jam that formed as motorists slowed to stare.

``I shamelessly and proudly call myself a tree hugger,″ Harrelson said via cellular phone before he and the others were arrested.

They were booked on charges of trespassing, failure to obey a peace officer and public nuisance, the highway patrol said. They were processed at a jail and officials expected them to be released Saturday night.

Their largest banner, measuring 70 feet by 35 feet, was addressed to Texas businessman Charles Hurwitz, whose Pacific Lumber Co. owns the Headwaters Forest Complex in northern California’s Humboldt County.

``Hurwitz, aren’t redwoods more precious than gold?″ the banner read.

The federal government is negotiating to buy 7,500 acres of the Headwaters Forest for $380 million. But environmentalists maintain that more of the forest should be preserved from logging.

``Most people think the Headwaters Forest has already been saved. But they need to understand the truth of the deal,″ said Celia Alario, a 28-year-old protester who scaled the bridge’s north tower.

Previous protests have been held at Pacific Lumber’s mill at Carlotta, Calif., where more than 1,000 people were arrested, including singers Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley.

``When a tree gets to be a thousand years old, when a tree gets to be two thousand years old, like these ancient redwoods are ... wouldn’t you stop and think that maybe they’re more sacred than money?″ Harrelson asked.

Harrelson, who starred in ``Natural Born Killers″ and TV’s ``Cheers,″ said he was camping near the Headwaters Forest when fellow protesters suggested the bridge demonstration.

``I guess all of us up here are a little crazy but also passionate and committed,″ the 35-year-old actor said.

The demonstration drew angry calls, honking horns and some sympathy from travelers caught in the snarled traffic.

``I appreciate their right to express an opinion, but not at the expense of so many people,″ said bicyclist Heidi Skupiem.