UC Berkeley speaks of impasse, seals off Occupy Farm

The main entrance to Gill Tract, which has been occupied by activists since April 22, was today locked by UCPD. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, Friday May 11, 1:00 pm: UC Berkeley says it will hold a planning meeting tomorrow morning, led by the dean of the university’s College of Natural Resources, Keith Gilless, and that two members of Occupy the Farm would be allowed to attend on condition that the group leaves Gill Tract by 10:00 am Saturday.

In a statement issued at 12:39 pm today, UC Berkeley says the meeting will be attended by city of Albany officials, members of the Albany community, residents of University Village and UC Berkeley faculty members and students and will “tackle the details of how the Gill Tract will be shared by our researchers and urban agriculture, and how the effort will be supported, coordinated and sustained under the university’s supervision.”

Read the full UC Berkeley statement dated today, May 11.

Original story: At the direction of UC Berkeley, UCPD officers have sealed the Gill Tract in Albany in order to prevent the entry of pedestrians onto the property, although people will still be free to leave. Police officers arrived at the UC Berkeley owned property at noon today and locked the one remaining entrance that was open on San Pablo Avenue and positioned guards at other closed gates.


Occupy member Lesley Haddock said the police had threatened anyone who entered the property with arrest. “We are trying to ignore them,” she said. “It’s not our intention to be confrontational.”

In a statement issued at 3:15 pm, UC Berkeley said it needed to take the necessary steps to allow research activities to begin by the middle of May. “We deeply regret that we have arrived at what appears to be an impasse,” they said. The university reiterated that it was committed to engaging in an active dialogue with all interested parties about the short- and long-term future of the Gill Tract. “It is our intention to facilitate a win-win situation whereby the land can be shared by our researchers and those who wish to sustain urban farming on the property.”

All entrances to the UC Berkeley owned property have now been locked with security officers guarding them. Photo: Tracey Taylor

After the property was sealed off, around 40 occupiers remained on the land. A couple of dozen had set up a welcome stand outside the main gate and many were working a relay, passing buckets of water by hand over the locked gate to activists inside who needed it to water the crops. UC Berkeley cut off the water supply to the land early on in the occupation which is in its 20th day. Since then, community members have been delivering water by truck to the site.

Haddock said the situation was not sustainable. “We now have problems with labor and water,” she said. Asked whether the farm activists might reach a compromise with UC Berkeley, Haddock said they hadn’t seen “good faith negotiations” from the university.

Activists are delivering water manually to those inside the property for crops, but say it is not sustainable. Photo: Tracey Taylor

“We’re willing to coexist and there’s a lot to agree with in the university’s proposal but the language is too vague. We don’t believe we could hold them too it. They need to clarify that we can continue to farm here,” she said.

The activists moved much of their encampment yesterday, away from the areas being worked on by Cal professors and students.

The plot of land that has been the focus of the occupation is not the one the university is planning to develop with a Whole Foods market and senior living facility. However the activists say they have reason to believe the site they chose to take over will be developed eventually. “We predict the development will spread out,” said Haddock.

The Occupy the Farm group is organizing a rally at Gill Tract for 5:00pm today.

Read the full update issued today by UC Berkeley.

Related:
Activists: Farming and research can coexist, no need for police [05.10.12]
UC Berkeley files lawsuit against Occupy the Farm activists [05.09.12]
Cal weighs legal action to evict Occupy the Farm activists [05.08.12]
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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