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Cal weighs legal action to evict Occupy the Farm activists

UC Berkeley today expressed disappointment with Occupy the Farm activists and said it would pursue legal action if needed. Photo: Tracey Taylor

UC Berkeley officials responded this afternoon to Monday’s letter from Occupy the Farm activists with “disappointment and dismay” and said the group’s demands and statements displayed a “stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement.”

They said a “win-win-win” result would be achieved only if the activists, who took over UC-owned agricultural land on April 22, dismantle the camp and cede control of the land back to the university. The statement, signed by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance John Wilton, concluded that, while it still hoped “cooler heads” would prevail, the university would have no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce its legal rights if the movement did not agree to its proposal.

The Gill Tract Farming Collective is holding an Open Forum tonight, Tuesday, on campus, 6:30-8:00 pm in 114 Morgan Hall.

There follows the full statement released at 4 p.m. Tuesday:

An Update on the Gill Tract Occupation

Last Thursday we met with representatives of the group currently occupying university-owned land that is used for agricultural research. We discussed steps that would allow for a peaceful end to the illegal occupation; a resumption of critical research work; and a continuation of urban farming on that part of the land that will not be utilized by our faculty and students. Our proposal is based on these simple, straightforward steps:

1. A voluntary and permanent dismantling of the tent city.

Why: Our faculty have made it clear that research requiring meticulous supervision and attention to detail cannot be conducted in the midst of an encampment populated by individuals who do not have the knowledge, experience or, for that matter, the legal rights that would justify or warrant their around-the-clock presence.

2. A restoration of university control and supervision over the land.

Why: As the owner of the property the university has legal liability and accountability for what happens on the land. We also cannot countenance the establishment of any precedent whereby a forceful seizure of property establishes a right to unilaterally dictate how the university conducts its research and educational activities. Free, unsupervised public access is simply incompatible with the environment and conditions necessary for complex agricultural research.

3. A resumption of water supply once the first two steps are completed.

Why: We believe in the principle of reciprocity and, as supporters of urban farming, desire to preserve as much of what has already been planted as possible.

4.  An initiation of detailed conversation and planning, led by the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, on sustaining urban farming alongside agricultural research. These discussions would also need to be broad-based, including all interested parties from the surrounding community.

Why: We have determined that the land can be shared in the context of our support for urban farming. We also will not disenfranchise members of the Albany community who, in recent years, have spent a good deal of time and effort working with us in a collaborative planning process designed to ensure that future use of the land reflects and addresses the needs and interests of our neighbors.

5. While this dialogue occurs best efforts will be made, under the supervision of the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, to protect the planting that has occurred as long as it does not interfere with the faculty’s research.

Why: We believe this is the best and only way to balance and coordinate two very different agricultural endeavors on a single parcel of land.

In our opinion this is what a win-win-win result would look like in that the proposal addresses the needs and interests of our faculty and students, the Albany community and those interested in urban farming. The door remains open to a peaceful resolution based on this proposal, and we will be ready to step back from any effort to hold the occupiers accountable, in terms of civil or criminal legal actions, if it is accepted.

In this context we received with disappointment and dismay the occupiers’ response that was published last night. 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. 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. There is no legal or moral foundation for this attempt by individuals involved in an illegal and forceful seizure of property to dictate terms.

Those who have been following developments since the occupation began on April 22nd know that we have been patiently seeking a peaceful conclusion through constant dialogue with members of the encampment. The Dean and faculty from the College of Natural Resources have been frequent visitors to the site, and have made every effort to engage, explain and explore the possibility of compromise. At the same time we are and will remain accountable to our neighbors in Albany–including parents of children who attend the elementary school adjacent to the tent city–who are, in growing numbers, asking that we take steps to regain control of our property.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the continuation of this occupation threatens a principle that lies at the heart of any institution of higher education: academic freedom. A growing number of our faculty are insisting that we preserve their right to pursue their educational and research interests without interference from a self-selected group of squatters. As the Chair of our Academic Senate recently said, “If there is no way to reach a win-win resolution, then I believe that the faculty’s freedom to do their planned research must be supported as a key principle….we must stand by this.” Our commitment to preserve academic freedom is part and parcel of who we are as one of the leading research universities in the world. Whether it is in the areas of health, agriculture, public policy, human rights or engineering, the preservation of academic freedom is non-negotiable.

So, where does that leave us? 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, 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.

Our position since the beginning of the occupation and our decision to now pursue other remedies arise from a careful, broad-based decision-making process that includes senior administration leaders, the Chair of our Academic Senate and other members of faculty, the Deans of the College of Natural Resources and the Graduate Division, UCPD, Student Affairs and Community Relations. This statement is fully supported by all of the above.

The occupiers’ response to our proposal has made it very clear that they still intend to hold our property and research projects hostage, refusing to relinquish control unless we submit to their demands. We still, however, hold out hope that in the days ahead cooler heads will prevail and they will agree to accept their portion of the win-win-win proposal we have offered before the non-negotiable need of our researchers to begin work forces our hand.

George Breslauer
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

John Wilton
Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance

Related:
Farm activists: We will leave camp if Cal meets our concerns [05.08.12]
UC Berkeley sets midnight deadline for Occupy the Farm [05.05.12]
Could UC and Occupy the Farm compromise on Gill Tract? [05.04.12]
UC Berkeley to Occupy the Farm: “Time is running out.” [05.03.12]
Occupy the Farm activists issue open letter to community [04.30.12]
UC Berkeley issues open letter to “clear confusion” on Gill Tract [04.27.12]
UC Berkeley calls for peaceful end to Occupy the Farm [04.23.12]

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  • The Sharkey

    They said a “win-win-win” result would be achieved only if the
    activists, who took over UC-owned agricultural land on April 22,
    dismantle the camp and cede control of the land back to the university.

    It should be obvious by now that this isn’t going to happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aglimme Aaron Glimme

    The Universities’ position sounds pretty reasonable to me.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    I went by there today…nothing but a bunch of scumbags hanging out all in need of showers yuck!

  • Anonymous

    The protesters should declare victory, claim openly that they have an agreement with the faculty to have an urban farm side by side with research forever, and publicly declare that the camp has served its purpose. They should declare that further talks should include the entire community to best figure out the details, but the war for urban farming has been won. Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t they do something that would actually be useful and occupy Sarachan’s vacant lot at Haste and Telegraph in order to create their urban farm? I think I know the answer already but I’d love to hear their reasons why this can’t be done. And no, I don’t have 3 hours to sit in one of your politburos and listen to your call-and-response yelling.

  • The Sharkey

    What a great suggestion!

    Not only would it help mitigate urban blight, but an urban farm in that vacant lot would also make it very easy to get food from the garden directly into the hands of homeless/destitute folks who are in much greater need of fresh veggies than the Albany residents who live near the Gill Tract.

  • JWong

    There has been loud and persistent helicopter activity in my area (North Berkeley/Albany) for about half an hour. Perhaps related to Occupy?

  • james

    i have also noticed this. cannot figure out location of helicopter.

  • JWong
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Hug/803660213 Marc Hug

    they are being raided right now. :(

  • Charles_Siegel

    Years ago, there was an occupation of that land, calling itself a People’s Park annex. You can imagine how well it worked out. It was about as attractive as a cess pool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Hug/803660213 Marc Hug

    wow. dickheads are everywhere i guess?

  • serkes

    There was a helicopter pas de deux this morning … they kept giving each other equal opportunity to annoy Albany & Thousand Oaks Berkeley neighbors.

    Channel 7 was one of the offenders.

    http://www.berkeleyhomes.com/photos/events/2012-05-09-albany-gill-tract-uc-berkeley-occupy-farm/albany-gill-tract-berkeley-uc-university-helicopter-channel-7-moon-2.jpg

    Ira

  • Charles_Siegel

    This suggestion makes a lot of sense to me. The Occupiers have won this commitment from the University to allow urban farming on the site as well as research. They can declare victory, end the occupation, and negotiate the details.