Dozen Grandmothers to be arrested


Fayetteville AR - At least a dozen grandmothers expected to be arrested later today

A Grandmother's march is organized to begin today at 6 p.m. at the Joyce St. Entrance to CMN business part in Fayetteville, AR. All participating grandmothers expect to be arrested as they attempt to deliver direly needed medical supplies, water and food to a fellow grandmother who has locked herself into the branches of 225 year old rare tree that is scheduled for demolition. Fifteen arrests have already been made in this continuing saga that pits concerned citizens against Argus Real Estate Developer, Kohl's Department Stores and City Officials who have chosen to violate local tree ordinances.

On May 3rd, Mary Lightheart, a 53 year old grandmother from Goshen AR, took her frustrations about violations of local ordinances up into an old growth oak tree. 20 days later Lightheart is still chained in the branches of the tree which is part of a grove scheduled for destruction to make way for a new Kohl's department store complex. A week ago, Argus Properties, made the decision to attempt to starve Lightheart out of the tree. Since then, an estimated 15 individuals, including a mayoral candidate, a candidate for alderman, and a press member, have been arrested for trespassing while attempting to deliver food, and needed medical supplies to Lightheart. Despite the siege which seriously endangers her health, Lightheart is determined to remain in the tree until city officials agree to uphold the laws which the citizens voted into effect. Lightheart has stated that she considers the starvation tactics to be a hunger strike which has been forced upon her against her will, but that she will not be coerced into submission by such human rights abuses.

Many Fayetteville residents endorse a proposal by mayoral candidate Dan Coody who suggests that Kohl's re-design the shopping center so that it can be built as a two story building with a shaded parking lot and adjacent city park. This plan could preserve all of the large rare trees, while the current plan will result in the destruction of nearly 90% of them. Professional architects have volunteered their assistance in re-drawing the shopping center to create a "win-win" scenario, but so far the developer has ignored these alternative design proposals. 

Recently, it was exposed that Argus Properties threatened a 3.5 million dollar lawsuit against the city, if city ordinances restricted their inability to proceed with business as usual. This outraged many citizen groups who view this threat as a form of blackmail against city officials. In an opinion poll, conducted by the Northwest Arkansas Times, 65% of Fayetteville residents responding to the poll indicated that they were in solidarity with Mary Lightheart. Over 3,000 of Fayetteville's 50,000 residents have signed a petition stating that they will not shop at Kohl's if this development proceeds without the necessary changes to uphold the ordinances.

These events come at an embarrassing time for Kohl's Corporation, which is currently under attack by national labor rights groups for it's involvement with sweatshop labor in Nicaragua. Activists have scheduled a press conference which coincides with the date and location of Kohl's annual stockholder's meeting on Tues. morning May 23 at the Four Point Sheridan Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Press Release - May 22, 2000
P.R. Contact: Marquette MyCue (501) 582-0088
Release written by Media Relations Director, William Alder (702)499-7799
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