Woman Refuses to Leave Tree to Protest Mall Project

PHOTO: "Chiara DAngelou, 19, said she has been practicing climbing trees to protest against mall sprawl in Bainbridge Island, Washington."
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A 19-year-old college student is refusing to leave her "tree house" that is 70 feet up in the air -- not for the bird’s-eye view, but to protest against a development project in Washington state that is set to cut down 830 trees.

Chiara D’Angelou, of Bainbridge Island, said she hasn't come down from the tree since 4 a.m. on Monday. She said she secured a wooden board to branches, placed a mattress on top of it, and brought food, water, books, a guitar, a cellphone and even solar charger with her.

“I have been practicing climbing trees,” D’Angelou told ABC News today. “I have a security belt tied on my waist just in case I fell.”

“My grandparents live in the area. I grew up here,” D’Angelou said.

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In addition to felling hundreds of trees, the 62,000-square-foot mall approved by the City of Bainbridge Island would cripple local businesses, D’Angelou said.

“I’m up here because I want to give people some extra time to rally and raise their voices,” said D’Angelou, a junior at Western Washington University, noting she has been visited by at least 300 people who support her cause.

PHOTO: Chiara DAngelou, 19, said she has been practicing climbing trees to protest against mall sprawl in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
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PHOTO: "Chiara D'Angelou, 19, said she has been practicing climbing trees to protest against mall sprawl in Bainbridge Island, Washington."

She uses a basket to transport food from visitors, she said.

“I’ve had kale chips, peaches, figs, chia tea, crab, salmon, granola, lots of amazing stuff sent to me,” said D’Angelou, noting she has no plan to come down any time soon.

“I hope the city will rethink the plan,” she said. "As long as I can, I’ll stay up here. I want to create space for a community voice.”

"The developer of this project, Visconsi, said that they would authorize the police department to arrest her for trespassing after 4 p.m. today,” Kellie Stickney, community engagement specialist at the Bainbridge Island City Council, told ABC News today.

“The city would really prefer not to arrest her, and just have her come down herself,” Stickney said. “We hope that the situation just resolves itself.”

“The project is in a commercially zoned area and the hearing examiner found that the project was in line with the uses of the area,” Stickney said. “At this point, the only party that can stop the project is the developer.”

Visconsi, the Ohio-based developer, sent ABC News a statement, which reads: "We respect her right – and all community members’ rights – to voice their opinions. But we respectfully urge D’Angelo and all others to do this in a safe and lawful manner."

"Any trees taken down for development will be used for lumber, and we are planting numerous new trees on other sites the city will identify," the statement said.

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