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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.

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Madison Fleck

Madison Fleck is the content editor for ABC 17 News.


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