People’s Park tree-sitter charged with attempted murder

Matthew Dodt, "Midnight Matt" on his tree platform/Photo: Lance Knobel

UC police have charged a man who has been sitting in a tree in People’s Park for the last three months with attempted murder.

Matthew Dodt, 54, was arrested around 3:15 am today after a six-hour standoff, according to Lt. Mark Decoulode of the UC Berkeley police department.

Dodt allegedly stabbed a man who had climbed up into the tree for a conversation, said Lt. Decoulode. Dodt stabbed the man’s hand, which had been resting on his neck. The man was treated at a local hospital and released.

Police were called to the park around 9 pm on reports of a stabbing, but Dodt refused to come down from the tree, said Lt. Decoulode. He finally agreed to descend six hours later after police brought in a cherry picker and some ladders. He was then arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and was  taken to the Alameda County jail.

UC police had issued a warrant for Dodt’s arrest for trespassing last week, said Lt. Decoulode. For a while Dodt hadn’t really been disturbing anyone but he recently pointed a laser at another police officer.

“His behavior seemed to be escalating somewhat,” said Lt. Decoulode. “Initially he was just trespassing. Then he pointed a laser. We were checking on him daily, mainly to monitor his health. Last night it escalated to the point where it became a public safety issue.”

Dodt, who also goes by the name Midnight Matt, climbed up into a tree in People’s Park in November. He was protesting changes to the park, such as the installation of a small museum,  proposed by George Beier, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in November.

While UC police said that Dodt apparently invited the victim into his tree, Dodt told the Daily Californian that four men approached him and threatened to burn down the tree to end the tree sit. When one of the men started to climb up the tree, Dodt got out his knife to protect himself, he told the paper.

Dodt has been a member of Copwatch, an organization that monitors police behavior, and Food Not Bombs, which distributes free food.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Cityside. Email: