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Homeless Are Friends of Peace Tree

May 03, 1987

I feel deeply compelled to correct some misinformation in your article, "Activists Give Peace a Third Chance, Plant Tree in Santa Monica Park" (Times, April 23).

It seems the homeless street people in Santa Monica's Palisades Park get blamed inappropriately for much. They certainly are getting the shaft now, as they seem to be blamed for vandalizing and destroying the Children's Tree of Life. Your article only might (imply) this, but others have been jumping to that conclusion. . . .

When I first learned that the tree had been destroyed a second time, I also suspected vandalism. (It certainly was much too large to be damaged by the wind.) But I never suspected the homeless people in the Palisades. They've been a friend of the tree since it was planted some years ago.

What now appears certain from reliable sources (many of the Palisade's homeless who personally witnessed the incident) is that the tree was not maliciously damaged as your article . . . stated. Apparently, it was backed into accidentally by a driver of a parks and recreation vehicle while the city was doing some ground work in the area.

Not to fault your reporter. The story was splendid. Neither to fault Parks and Recreation Department information. Apparently there was no exact data to rely on since the incident seemed to have had gone unreported. (It should be mentioned that support from Santa Monica Recreation and Parks for all the tree plantings as well as other Alliance for Survival activities has been positively exceptional.) As far as the incident itself, certainly one can't fault the vehicle driver. Accidents happen all the time. And a tree won't help much to alleviate an impending vehicular collision (not even a peace tree). So I guess one can't really fault the tree either. . . .

At least a few things . . . can be learned from the tree incident. One is that we shouldn't prejudge homeless people. In fact, if people followed the peace tree's message, we would be talking about shelters for the homeless, not shelters for MX missiles. We would be feeding the needy, not the arms race. We would be helping them, not criticizing them. Another lesson: The tree was purposely kicked down once; this time it was an accident. Same damage. At least we were able to replant. But following a nuclear war, whether by plan or accident--unfortunately there would be (not) much left to replant and few or none to do the replanting.

Once again, "Happy Earth Day!"


Director, L.A. Alliance for Survival

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