Occupiers who seized farm given final ultimatum
The saga continues. On April 22, Occupier broke into the Gill Tract, land owned by UC Berkeley. Claiming they wanted to save the land for “urban farming” and from development, they started tilling and planting vegetables.
Of course, the Gill Tract was not slated for development but was being used by the University students, professors and scientists for research. In moving onto the land, in addition to breaking the locks, Occupy brought in tents, porta potties, cut down trees used in research project, managed to run off the wild turkeys that had been living there. They uprooted the soil, and planted items not planned for the area.
It appears that the University’s patience may finally have been expended.
The Univeristy gave them a deadline to respond last weekend, which they ignored. Occupiers issued a statement in repsonse on Monday, stating they would not leave until the University met their demands which included:
1. turning the water back on (UC shut off the water the day after the occupation began)
2. continued access to the field to tend the crops they planted and to their “Children’s Garden” and seed bank site.
3. that university researchers “refrain from using chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizer or plastic tarp in the soil on the farm.
The Univeristy responded on Tuesday, calling Occupiers’ statement one with a “stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement”:
“We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives,” UC said. “There is also a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group’s demands and statements about what they are ‘willing’ to do for our researchers.”
“While we will continue to leave the door open to an acceptance of our proposal that would allow the illegal occupants to leave the land without consequence,” UC said, “the university has no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce our legal rights, protect academic freedom, preserve the collaborative community-based planning process and work with our law-abiding neighbors who share our interest in finding a way to allow for peaceful coexistence of urban farming and agricultural research on the Gill Tract.”
On Wednesday, the University started to get tough. They locked an the entrance gate and erected barricades to the property. They also filed a suit against the Occupiers, naming 14 people associated with the takeover and 150 unnamed ‘John Does”. The suit asks for a court order for removal of the Occupiers from the tract. The suit also seeks damages for the property damage that has been incurred and court costs. See suit here.
On Thursday, the University locked the last remaining open entrance. Although they didn’t remove anyone there, no one else is allowed to enter. Police and private security have been on site.
The latest communication from the University is that the people still there must be out by 10 am Saturday morning or risk arrest. If they leave, the University offers them a place in the discussion about the future of the tract.
“They have until 10:00 tomorrow morning to decide if they want to have a seat at the table for those discussions about how exactly we’ll keep urban agriculture going, and they have the choice to make about whether they want to have collaboration or possible confrontation,” Dan Mogulof, UC spokesperson said.
Occupier Gopal Dayaneni said they had no intention of leaving.
According to ABC7, Berkeley’s Judith Barish brought her three kids to help out at Occupy the Farm and had no qualms about their climbing the fence to get in. “People often have to break the law to stand up for something they believe in and while the university may or may not have law on its side, we think that the occupiers here have justice on their side,” she said. “Oh, no, I climb over fences a lot,” her daughter Sasha said laughingly when asked if she had issues with the fence-hopping.
See ABC video of occupiers on land and kids hopping the fence here