Occupiers broke into the Gill Tract area again on Sunday. About 30 people arrived around noon, and according to the Daily Californian, some distracted the security while others broke into the property. Their purpose was to harvest crops that they had planted in April when they first broke into and occupied the land
The Gill Tract is an area of land owned by the University of California at Berkeley. The area in question that was being occupied was being used in part for agricultural research. Occupiers claimed that the University intended to sell the land for development to make a Whole Foods, and that they were breaking in to save it as farmland for sustainable farming. The University disputed this claim, noting that it was another area that was being used for development and that the land in question was for research, with which the Occupiers were interfering.
A standoff ensued when the Occupiers would not leave. Finally, the University had to move in on May 14 and throw them off the land so that the University could ensure that its researchers were able to do their own work. In the meantime, some research work had been damaged by the Occupiers’ presence.
Since being kicked off the land, the Occupy group has continued to trespass on the land, cutting the lock off the gate four times, including the last break in yesterday.
“We are in a difficult situation and don’t have the resources to monitor the Gill Tract around the clock,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “There is a group that seems to care little about property rights or the rule of law. We need to focus on ensuring that the research goes unimpeded and unharmed.”
The University had begun a lawsuit against the Occupiers but dropped it due to costs.
UCPD Lt. Alex Yao said on August 8 that the tract is being monitored by both the community and the UCPD. He also said the participants of the break-ins are videotaped by officers.
According to the Daily Californian,
Protesters said the development project — which was planned for several years and was finally approved by Albany City Council on July 9 — provides no guarantees against the agricultural land being paved away. Furthermore, they said the mega-complex may impact the soil and increase car exhaust in the area, which would cause air pollution and asthma for Albany residents.
“Most importantly, there is no guarantee that in the future the agricultural land will not be developed further,” said Kelly Jewett, a UC Berkeley fifth-year and Occupy the Farm member. “In all reality, there is no explicit intention to develop agricultural land.”
Keep Albany Local, a local organization against the project, has spearheaded a petition that includes over 1,400 signatures calling for a referendum of the city council’s decision. If the petition is approved by the Albany city clerk, a referendum will appear on the November election ballot, giving Albany residents the option to rescind approvals for the development project, said Sally Sommer, an Occupy the Farm member and Berkeley resident
Occupy had been invited to participate in the discussions over the future of the land, but had declined to do so.
Though UCPD officers told protesters not to damage the property, members of the Occupy the Farm said they did not feel like they were trespassing because the Gill Tract is public land.
“(Trespassing) is not really a significant aspect of this,” Jewett said. “Personally, I feel that this is public land. They don’t put a fence up around Sproul Plaza[central hub at the University]”