Man climbs Ypsilanti tree, refuses to leave

Were you wondering why the news choppers were circling Ypsi earlier this evening?

The following clip comes from WDIV television in Detroit:

Man Continues Peaceful Tree Protest
DTE Wants To Clear Space For Transmission System

YPSILANTI, Mich. — A Ypsilanti man is camping out in a tree behind his house in protest of a utility company’s efforts to cut it down.

Bill Riney said he will stay in his beloved tree in his back yard as long as it takes to keep ITC International, a transmission company subcontracted out by DTE, from cutting it down.

Tuesday marked day two of the protest.

“I don’t like to be without electricity either, you know,” Riney said. “I understand, come out and trim them a little bit, but don’t devastate the neighborhood by cutting them all down”…

For video, click here.

I like that Riney, when they show him up in the tree, is reading a book about Walter Reuther. And I also like that the reporter didn’t ask him where he poops, which is the kind of reporting I’ve come to expect from our regional press.

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  1. Linda
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Bill is going to be running for State Rep. He is a pretty interesting fellow.

  2. Oliva
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I agree re. interesting.
    He hosted the big Obama inauguration party at Club Divine, welcomed everybody–party from early morn to late into the night, food all the day, bands, decorations, celebration. All heart.
    Very generous and bright man. Nice to imagine him up there reading labor history. Hope he’s successful.

  3. Lisa
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Gotta love Bill. He’s always working on some campaign to get people to focus on things that matter. I know him from when I worked with him when he was spearheading a group of people trying to get the Ypsi Township incinerator replaced with a composting facility instead of another incinerator (no dice on that campaign, unfortunately).

  4. Posted June 24, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    That’s awesome! I remember his name b/c one of my pals Facebooked that he was marching down the street dressed as a leprechaun (this was around St. Patti’s Day, to be fair). :)

  5. Quackenbush
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    That is awesome. It sounded like maybe they will trim the trees after all?

  6. AndyS
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I live nearby and saw the WDIV truck in front of his house on Monday and wondered what was up. My father’s in town and noticed the heliocopters Tuesday morning, so I turned on the news at noon on Tuesday and figured it out then. Another neighbor had told me previously that Riney runs for office (and loses) regularly. He often drives his van around the neighborhood pulling a trailer on which is secured a barbecue and he gives away free hot dogs to anybody who wants one– I last saw him doing that at the Normal Park yard sale this year.

  7. Posted June 24, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Yeah. I hope he wins this battle! It is also nice to know that it isnt just Ann Arbor who has tree huggers :)

  8. Terry
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    If you can’t get elected with free wieners, there’s something wrong.

  9. West Cross
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Sure, a respected member of the community climbs a tree and you call it noble but a drunk climbs the ceiling at Deja Vu and he’s a monster.

    Where are your priorities people? A free hot dog only goes so far.

  10. Linda
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Bill also published a Ypsi Newspaper until he got sued over the story on the tar and feathering of the Ypsilanti Township school Superintendent story a few years back.

  11. Dee
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    We should return the favor and take him hot dogs during his protest.

  12. watching laughing
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Bill Riney is a good guy.
    Good for him.

    Watching laughing.

  13. kudos
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink


    I wish you were in my district Bill; I would write you in for local councilcritter. My councilcritter is worse than useless. And has been for ages.

  14. Patrick
    Posted June 24, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Bill!

  15. Posted June 24, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to dedicate a song.

  16. Stacey
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I love it! Bill’s son is good friends with my 9 year old. There have been times when the kids have a sleepover and Bill will come back to cook hot dogs for them. When I see his Obama-postered van with a hot dog stand pulled up in front of my house, it gives me one of those “I love Ypsi” moments. His kid is really cool, too. He likes what he calls a “disco outfit” that he culled together out of the costume box. Huge curly wig, sunglasses and a silver sequined shirt. The boys dress up and wander the neighborhood, New York Dolls style.

  17. Kevin
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    You’ve gotta read the comments on this over at the AA News website:

    They HATE him.

  18. Oliva
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    One commenter over there (AA News) said, “Often times I read stories like these and think how neat it is to be so passionate about something, that one would risk safety, the law, and the complete embarrassment of protesting.”

    I remember hearing this same thing, re. the “embarrassment of protesting,” before the Iraq War, when the entire world was taking to the streets. Wonder why some people are embarrassed to see others care about life beyond themselves.

  19. Posted June 25, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Bill is a true American, and he has my vote for state rep. He defines grassroots.

  20. Ypsitucky Headhunter
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Boo-Yah, Tree Man! Go get ’em! In my personal endeavors this year, so far, I have been screwed over by governmental agencies and their affiliates, at the city, state, AND federal levels…and it’s only June! Do your thing, baby…and if you do run for office of anything, you have my vote!

  21. Posted June 27, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    So nice to see how different the comments here are from the laughing hyenas over at I know Riney isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and tree-sitting may not be the most effective use of one’s time, but at least he’s trying. I also remember that he was trying to start some kind of workers’ cooperative for unemployed Ypsilantians (sp?) in the past year. I live near Riney, and I had been noticing his Obama tractor for the last few months, without making the connection to the workers’ co-op idea and to his various political campaigns.

  22. Posted June 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    A lot more of us should be in trees, or otherwise making nuisances of ourselves. And I don’t say that sarcastically. I mean it. This kind of thing should be much more commonplace. People should be picketing any number of government offices, chaining themselves to buildings, etc.

  23. DRich
    Posted June 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    He speaks for the trees! He speaks for the trees! Excellent. Just watched “The Lorax” with my 6-year old daughter tonight.

  24. Posted November 9, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    According to, Riney is back up in his tree.

  25. Brackinald Achery
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    They should just rejuice the power lines. If it doesn’t burn down the tree, well, alright. If it does, well, see you in hell Mr. Lorax.

  26. Oliva
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    People should be picketing any number of government offices

    Can hone our picketing skills at Blue Cross then fan out . . .
    (P.O. gets love, right? No picketing needed. Libraries too.)

    I agree, anyway. We’re powerful, especially with moral support. Can all go by and bring Bill Riney snacks, books, maybe a scarf if it gets chilly, a funny joke or two.

  27. Kim
    Posted September 7, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Riney’s in the news again. This time he climbed up on top of the Washtenaw County administration building and refused to come down. He says he did it to protest unemployment.

    The question is, what will he climb next?

  28. Kim
    Posted September 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Riney might find himself in jail this time.

  29. Posted September 9, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    To protest unemployment?

    Maybe he should start a business and hire people, geez. I mean, how do you protest unemployment? It’s like protesting 90 degree weather — what the hell are they supposed to do?

One Trackback

  1. By Punched in the nose by bikers on September 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    […] a while ago how I told you that a fellow here in Ypsi had begun living in a tree in order to keep it from being chopped down? Well, he’s apparently come down… It’s being reported at that Bill […]

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