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'The man in the tree' mesmerizes Seattle - from 80 feet up (with video)

UPDATE NOON PST -- From The Associated Press

SEATTLE -- "Man In Tree" has climbed down.

The man riveted the Internet over the past 25 hours as he refused to leave his perch near the top of an 80-foot sequoia in the middle of a downtown shopping district.

After long efforts from police to coax him down, the man climbed to the base of the tree a little before noon Wednesday.

He sat at the base and appeared to be chomping on a piece of fruit. Police initially kept their distance but soon approached him. They loaded him onto an ambulance on a stretcher.

UPDATE 9 a.m. PDT -- from the Associated Press:

SEATTLE -- Hundreds of people have paused on their way to work to check out the man refusing to leave his perch near the top of an 80-foot sequoia tree in downtown Seattle. Many pulled out their phones to take a photo of his silhouette against the gray, drizzling sky and marveled that he was still there nearly a full day after climbing up.

The man spent much of the morning reclining quietly in the upper branches, but he resumed gesticulating wildly and shouting when two police officers tried to talk to him from sixth-floor windows of the Macy's department store building next door.

Local chef Michelle Matsko gazed up at the man from underneath her red umbrella and wondered if he was trying to make a statement. She called his endurance impressive. Another woman, Janice Wilson, repeatedly yelled to him: "We love you! Come down safely!"

ORIGINAL STORY:

Downtown Seattle's lofty sequoia tree has seen its share of hardships over the years.

Since 1973, it has valiantly stood in a cramped street corner at a three-way intersection, an urban space dwarfed by the leafy tower's 80-foot stature. It was once the official downtown Christmas tree, shouldering sparkling lights against the city's oft-gray skies.

In 2006, a violent windstorm stripped the sequoia of its top 10 feet, the Seattle Times reported. Over the next four years, the tree's health deteriorated, prompting an examination by an internationally known tree expert and emergency soil treatment from the city transportation department's Urban Forestry unit.

Through all this, the tree has stood its ground, undeterred by life's cruel whims. But on Tuesday the Seattle icon was confronted with its greatest challenge yet: a bearded, wool cap-wearing, orange peel-throwing man.

He illustrated his point by shouting curse words, throwing pine cones and orange peels at passersby and hurling an apple at medics below. He also requested a pack of Camel Crush cigarettes, KOMO News reported.

The man claimed to be carrying a knife, the Seattle Police Department said in a statement. When asked by a Twitter user whether he was a danger to the public, authorities responded that the "issue appears to be between the man and the tree."

As hour after hour passed, the man continued to shout intermittently and rip branches from the tree. At the start of his occupation, the AP reported, he wore a red knit cap that has since been dropped as well.

Police told the Seattle Times that they were concerned about the man's mental health, and did not want to rush the rescue lest it jeopardized his safety.

"They're doing a great job controlling the area," witness Brandon Foley told the Times. "It seems like they're controlling him. They're getting pine cones consistently thrown at them."

The standoff crippled downtown traffic during the day, causing several bus routes to be diverted.

The identity of the man is not known, but some onlookers told the Times that he resembles a homeless man in the area.

"I've seen him around downtown," James Arriola said.

Scott Bonjukian, who works on the seventh floor of a building next to the tree, wrote in an email to The Washington Post that he was alerted to the man when he heard a police officer yelling at him through a bullhorn.

"We watched for several hours as police tried to talk him down," Bonjukian said. "It was somewhat funny until he started ripping off limbs and defecating."

He added: "Homelessness and affordable housing have become big topics in Seattle, along with lack of funding for mental health at the state level. I'm sure this will spur conversations about those kinds of policy, along with more hashtags and parody Twitter accounts."

One such account, @Man_In_Tree has already tweeted more than 250 times, alternating between puns and serious hopes for the man's wellbeing.

Despite the concern expressed by many that the man needs immediate medical attention, others have found the puns difficult to resist. Even the police tossed one into the ring. Seattle Police Department tweeted, "@mirahwood Still under investigation. We've got negotiators en root."

After nightfall, a costumed do-gooder styled after the Marvel character Phoenix Jones arrived to offer his services, but the authorities declined his assistance.

As of 10 a.m. Pacific time, the man was still up in the tree, and appeared to be nestled in a makeshift nest among the branches.

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