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Woman comes down from tree after week-long protest

Sutu Forte
A Columbia woman protests the construction of a new trail by staying in a tree on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.


A Columbia woman came down from a tree Tuesday morning after protesting the construction of a new trail in south Columbia for a week.

LIVE PLAYBACK of the scene can be viewed in the player below

Columbia police and Boone County Sheriff's deputies took Sutu Forte into custody Tuesday morning and gave her a citation for trespassing after she came down from the tree. Forte was then released from custody.

"Apparently that happened peacefully, but boy what happened after that is not peaceful," said Mary Hussmann, a friend of Forte's.

The land off of Bluffdale Drive is marked for construction of a new trail on Rollins Street, and Forte had been in the tree since last week in protest. The construction of the trail began Monday.

Members of Columbia nonprofit It's Our Wild Nature started protesting the construction last week. Forte, who is a member of IOWN, had been living inside a tree on the property to halt the construction.

On Tuesday afternoon, crews took down that tree.

"Of course one of the very first ones they took down was the tree that Sutu was sitting in and to me, that's just beyond sad," Hussmann said.

Construction could have started with Forte in the tree, Columbia city spokesman Steve Sapp said. The construction would not be a danger to Forte if she remained in the tree, Sapp said.

Forte told ABC 17 News that she would not leave the tree.

"I don't know what else to say except that I'm staying, and if they're going to take this tree down, they have to take me, too," Forte said.

A Boone County judge granted a request by Columbia city leaders to remove anyone protesting on land marked for construction of a new trail on Rollins Street.

The new trail will connect the Rollins Street to the Bluffdale Drive cul-de-sac. Construction on the trail is scheduled to start Nov. 4 and continue until the summer of 2020. The court order says the city could have to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer money if the project is delayed.

A court decision in January ruled Columbia could purchase the land for the trail by way of eminent domain. The city was awarded an order of condemnation by Harris in March.

Columbia / Top Stories

Madison Fleck

Madison Fleck is the content editor for ABC 17 News.

Brittany Wiley

Brittany Wiley joined ABC 17 News in December 2018 as a full-time reporter. She anchors weekend morning broadcasts and reports in the early evening during the week.



    1. The Hippies won nothing but the disdain of the Columbia people. This was the most selfish, self aggrandizing manufactured drama seen in this town since the “we need some muscle over here” spectacle on the quad. Everyone knows It’s Our Wild Nature knowingly bought this property after the trail project was approved and the easements acquired by the City. That woman should be forced to pay for the entire police and fire response required to remove her from the tree. These Hippies put all of us at risk by unnecessarily tasking our public safety resources to participate in their farce. Our police have much more important things to do besides play nurse maid to a tree hugging Hippie.

      1. I agree Mike but she showed no respect for the court order or the CPD. That is why I made that post. She got her 15 minutes of fame, now she is just an embarrassment.

  1. Bravo, it is about time. Now let’s get that awesome trail finished so we can all enjoy it. Long over due. And too much drama, just amazing, and yet, embarrassing…..

  2. By coddling these freaks, you embolden them to do stupid stuff every time they get hurt in the posterior over something.
    For proof, look at the snowflake generation; every time they don’t get their way, they “protest” by disrupting everyone else’s life. And because the police don’t use water cannons on them, they think it’s fine to get in my way.

  3. It’s Our Wild Nature is a proud mix of young and old, hippies and fiscal conservatives. The organization was formed to save urban wilderness areas for generations to come. The “I want now” generation is the one who has ravaged this precious land to build the concrete bike road they want but will not use because it really goes from nowhere to nowhere as a practical transportation route. The have ravaged it now so they can go on to their next item on their “I want” list. To hell with the environment they claim to be saving by pouring miles of concrete roads in flood plains and destroying 50-100 year old trees and natural habitats. Taxpayers this is the money the City claims it does not have to provide for basic services being wasted for frivolity.

    1. Barb, you are welcome to your opinion. I’ve found the I’OWN group to be arrogant and manipulative. They’ve used fear tactics and outright lies to try and push their agenda. It’s sad.

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