UC Berkeley Wednesday took its first physical step toward reclaiming the in Albany by locking a gate and erecting barriers, and also filed suit against the farm activists who took over the university-owned property on April 22.
It was a day of news helicopters overhead and TV news vans as UC police moved in to partially seal off the site where several dozen "Occupy the Farm" activists have been camping and planting crops.
UC Berkeley officials also announced a civil lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court seeking a court order for the removal of 14 named members of the group and 150 unidentified "Does" from the tract, which is used for university agricultural research.
The suit, which also seeks damages and court costs, says the defendants cut chains to gain access and have refused to end their illegal occupation despite repeatedly being directed by UC police to do so. (The lawsuit is attached to this article.)
The Occupy the Farm activists meanwhile moved much of their camping gear away from the UC planting field to an adjoining UC-owned area that had not been used for growing. The group said on its Web site, "In order to free up as much space as possible for researchers, the farmers began relocating the temporary camp to a more southern portion of the Gill Tract which has long been vacant, not used for agricultural research."
The activists call for sustainable urban farming and object to a long-range UC plan to convert the longstanding agricultural tract to a site for buildings and recreational and open space.
In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, UC said, "This lawsuit represents an additional step that the university is taking to regain control of its property so that it can be used for agricultural research and education. At the same time, the occupiers still have the opportunity to accept a proposal that would allow for a peaceful end to the illegal encampment, resumption of research activities and the continuation of urban farming on portions of the land that will not be utilized by faculty and students."
The university's proposal says the tent camp must leave and control of the site returned to UC in time for university researchers to begin preparing the site in the middle of this month for their annual planting of crops for agricultural research. If the occupiers agree, UC has said, the university will overlook criminal sanctions and include the activists in a community dialogue on shared community use of the portion of the 10-acre tract not needed by university researchers.
In a statement Monday night, Occupy the Farm said it would remove the camp if the university presents a "concrete proposal" addressing three conditions:
- turn the water back on (UC shut off the water the day after the occupation began)
- continued access to field to tend the crops they planted and their "Children's Garden" and seed-bank site
- university researchers "refrain from the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizer or plastic tarp in the soil on the farm"
For more details, background and extensive commentary on the Gill Tract occupation, see Albany Patch.
For past El Cerrito Patch articles on the occupation, click "Gill Tract" next to Related Topics below. For alerts to future El Cerrito Patch articles on the topic, click the Keep me posted button below.