Before protesters could even chain themselves to it, a historic tree known as the “Tree of Knowledge” was chopped down earlier this week. Growing on a Sydney, Australia street corner, the massive tree was a beloved local landmark, but according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that love didn’t stop city planners from secretly undertaking its demolition.
Located just outside the University of New South Wales, the Moreton Bay fig was originally planted in 1860, and had since grown into a wide, sprawling tree that was well-known to just about everyone at the school.
Plans to take down the tree, and many others like it, in order to make room for a new light rail system, had been in the works for months. But since the plan’s inception, protest groups have been gathering petitions and staging protests in an attempt to save the trees. It even seemed like their plan was working, after the New South Wales planning council said previously that the tree would be safe until November while alternative plans for the light rail were considered.
But workers began lopping limbs off the tree on Sunday, in preparation for the entire plant’s removal. The surprise demolition of the tree sent a wave of outrage through the community, and dozens of protesters gathered around the fenced-off work site.
Or, as one Australian member of parliament put it on Facebook, “It took 150 years to grow and a few hours to die.”