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.

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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  • FiatSlug

    And still the Occupiers refuse to bargain in good faith.

    The Occupiers have already decided that UC is in the wrong and that they alone know the proper use of the Gill Tract, even though the Occupiers have no title to the property.
    Where does the arrogance and self-righteousness end?

  • The Sharkey

    “It’s not our intention to be confrontational.”

    Then why are you illegally squatting on University property?
    If you don’t want a confrontation, go home.

  • raisedinberkeley!

    These “protestors” give a bad name to civil disobedience and what it has accomplished in the past. Rosa Parks was a protestor. These people protest because it is convenient. In fact, it seems like many of them protest as a profession, which is actually a fairly unique method for them to ensure self-preservation while claiming to represent “the people:” they go from protest to protest, hang around and then get free food from guilt ridden, affluent Berkeley/Oakland/Albany/El Cerrito and Marin residents. Plus they camp for free. Why pay rent or buy groceries? No need if you are Oak Grove or Gill Tract resident.

    In addition, these types of protestors are the polar opposite, and just as misinformed and dangerous as the people out there who are “birthers.” Both groups make up their own truths, believe it, and then repeat it so much that other gullible people just start to believe too. President Obama is a citizen and the University of California is not planning on paving over their outdoor research laboratory (

  • Guest

    Comment hidden due to abuse reports. Show comment.

  • Bruce Love

    John Carroll has written a thoughtful piece on this impasse today (the corrections it needed notwithstanding, although they do not change his salient points):

    The on-line version omits the (pseudo-) pull quote customary to his printed edition columns:

    Best Occupy effort ever, now starting down that long road of mutual incomprehension.

    Somehow, he manages to get through it without punching hippies, even rhetorically.

    He contributes the insight that The Regents’ property rights need not imply that the occupiers must lose.

  • Lhasa7

    Comment show. Reports abuse to due hidden comment.

  • Andrew

    6 comments, all hidden because they are abusive? This system is broken.

  • Charles_Siegel

    How much to you want to bet that your comment gets hidden due to abuse reports?

  • Charles_Siegel

    And one of them even has the words backwards. Good job, Disqus.

  • Lhasa7

    Actually, I was just riffing on “Guest”’s post above. Here’s a little ditty to celebrate the new comment system.

  • We’ve switched off the new Disqus. I hope they sort out the bugs, because some of what they were trying makes sense. But until they do, we’ll stick with the old system. Sorry for the inconvenience, everyone. 

  • The Sharkey

    The article was written under the false assumptions that the area the Tree Sitters-cum-Farm Occupiers took over land that was lying fallow (it wasn’t) and that was slated to be turned into a Whole Foods store (it’s not). I don’t fault Carroll for this, however, because the Occupy the Farm folks have been lying to the public/press about those issues and seem generally pretty confused about what they’re fighting against.

    Once you remove the parts that are based on the misconceptions and lies that the Occupy the Farm protesters are using to promote their cause, you’re left with some airy fluff that reads like an Occupy the Farm propaganda press release.

  • The Sharkey

    Thanks, Lance. Some of the new features are pretty nice, but it’s too easily abused and can sometimes be a little hard to read. They need to allow hosts to up the vote count required for hiding comments (maybe 5 abuse reports and 10 negative votes before something is hidden) and maybe add slightly better visual breaks between comments. Shouldn’t be too hard. I look forward to the return of a newer, improved Disqus.

  • Andrew

     Thank you. And thank you to Berkeleyside for all of your efforts and great coverage!

  • Bruce Love

    Sharkey, insult is not argument.

    I think that most people can read Carroll’s article and see that the corrections don’t change his salient points, which are more centerist and concerned with realpolitik than any “propaganda” I’ve seen.

    This bit is really uncalled for:

    because the Occupy the Farm folks have been lying to the public/press
    about those issues and seem generally pretty confused about what they’re
    fighting against.

    For those who might not want to take you at your word, here are the Occupy the Farm media pages.

    And their press releases are on the home page of the same site.

  • Lhasa7

    Thanks to you, Mr. Knobel. Personally, I find the newer format to undermine dialogue by skewing things with the voting system. I have no opposition to people voting to approve or disapprove posts, but using these results to hide or reposition comments is inviting mob rule.

  • The Sharkey

    Opinions that are different from yours are not “insults.”

    Occupy the Farm supporters initially claimed that the University was going to build a Whole Foods on the farmland that they occupied. This is false.
    Occupy the Farm supporters initially claimed that the University was leaving the farmland fallow. This is false.
    Occupy the Farm supporters claim that they are trying to “reclaim the land for farming” even though it is already being used for farming.

    Given how much he got wrong by relying on counter-factual reports from unknown sources, the comments on Carroll’s article are far more enlightening than his article is.

    sarasfgate said:

    I live next to the Tract, and you might want to correct a bit of
    information. The plot they are farming will not be sold to Whole Foods.
    An adjacent plot, across the creek, is being negotiated for a Whole
    Foods, through the City of Albany’s planning process, after years of
    public input. The plot they took over is planned for recreation and open
    space, including the possibility of a farm. Also, it wasn’t fallow,
    it’s currently used as an agricultural research plot, and there’s been
    plenty of press about the researchers’ need to plant this week. You
    might still support this action, but at least present the facts
    accurately. The circulation of misinformation has not helped this cause
    with the community.

    vbjordan said:

    I’m not even sure how to respond to this piece as it’s so riddled with
    factual errors and misinformation it’s hard to know where to start. This
    is journalism at its worst: misleading, ideological and just plain
    lazy. has done an excellent job of covering this from
    all points of view. UC is not selling the land, it’s being developed
    with the input of the surrounding community; the land was not fallow
    (even a lone pear tree researcher disproves that) there were quite a few
    researchers working there (at least 3 by my count along with their
    students). In summer the field is full of growing plants, because that’s
    the growing season (not early May when the activists settled in). One
    of the big ironies of this is that the occupy movement treasures a
    democratic process based on consensus. But it’s clear that in this case
    its consensus on their terms; if you support any sort of development
    nearby your point of view is officially moot, if you support them you
    can sit at their table.

  • FiatSlug


    Jon Carroll could have used some more thought before publishing his column on Thursday, May 10 (Occupy the Farm movement digs in).Carroll does not recognize that the Gill Tract is owned by UC, not Occupy the Farm.  Occupy the Farm is engaged, at the very least, in trespassing and squatting.Carroll also does not recognize that the urban farming movement was alive and well before Occupy the Farm engaged in their political theater. This is all a distraction to much larger issues that embroil the University: continued funding cuts from Sacramento, rising tuition costs, and a social order that clearly values greed and “rugged individualism” over sharing and strengthening the social fabric.

    Quite frankly, if Sacramento would have upheld its commitment from 50 years ago to providing educational opportunities to the students of California, we would not be having this discussion.  The failure is not so much with UC as it is with the electorate’s willingness to elect representatives who side with business over the middle class and the poor.

    If the energy that went into the Occupy movement went instead into grassroots organizing and advancement of the idea that strengthening the middle class and helping the poor to enter the middle class strengthens America’s social fabric, then we could begin to see real change helping the middle class and the poor.  We could actually see efforts with lasting effects in strengthening America’s social fabric.

    In sum, the Occupy movement has demonstrated that they know how to organize a mass temper tantrum but they don’t have the fortitude and determination to do the hard work necessary to effect lasting social change.

    Demonstrations are not social change; they are fits of pique that turn off the very people you need to persuade.

  • Bruce Love


    Carroll does not recognize that the Gill Tract is owned by UC,

    See, this is where I stopped reading because Carroll’s piece is pretty much based on exactly that recognition.   Have you read it?

  • Bruce Love

     Again, anyone who would like to let Occupy the Farm speak for itself rather than having The Sharkey creatively interpret them is free to visit their web site.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Many major social changes began with demonstrations, legal or illegal.  Recent examples are the Arab spring last year, the demonstrations against communism in east Europe in 1989, and so on, back to the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and to the French Revolution.

    Anyone who has thought about history cannot possibly believe that: “Demonstrations are not social change; they are fits of pique that turn off the very people you need to persuade.”

    I myself have mixed feelings about the Occupy the Farm Movement, but I find that many commenters are so strongly against Occupy the Farm that they attack it by making absurd statements about demonstrations in general or about private property in general.

  • FiatSlug


    There’s more than a grain of truth in what you say here, but I want to touch on the issue of “civil disobedience”.  I think that the current use of the term has undercut its original and powerful meaning.

    What the press and protestors have often labeled as “civil disobedience” in the last 40 years is nothing of the sort.  For instance, civil disobedience is not engaging in a march down Broadway without a permit for whatever reason (pick one: there seem to be so many reasons to march anywhere).

    Civil disobedience is the deliberate breaking of an unjust law to highlight that law’s injustice.  For instance, Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her bus seat for a white person in Montgomery, AL was an act of civil disobedience.  It was a deliberate act meant to highlight the second class stature accorded to African-Americans by Jim Crow laws.

    Same thing with African-Americans sitting in at lunch counters labeled “Whites Only”.  Or drinking at water fountains with the same designation.

    Or Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay a poll tax because he knew that the money would be used to fund the Mexican-American war.

    Where is the civil disobedience in occupying land that does not belong to you to protest the building of a grocery store?  There is no unjust law pertaining to grocery stores at the expense of urban farms being broken here.  Ergo, it is not civil disobedience.

    Moreover, the land being occupied will not prevent the building of the proposed grocery store: the project is slated for a different location entirely apart from the Occupy the Farm location.

    If this were truly civil disobedience, the impact of this action would be much more powerful than it is.

  • FiatSlug

    Yes, I did read it.  And while Carroll initially says that it is UC property, what follows in his piece clearly shows that he discounts, dismisses, or ignores that very fact.

    Everything after “acknowledging” UC’s ownership is based upon the premise that Occupy the Farm has some sort of ownership interest in the Gill Tract.  

    Carroll insists that UC has a moral duty to negotiate with Occupy the Farm.  If UC owns the property, by what authority does Occupy the Farm have a claim on negotiation with UC with regard to UC property?  Certainly not a legal authority. Certainly not even a moral authority: Occupy’s actions are the moral equivalent of breaking into a home grabbing some item that belongs to the homeowner and demanding negotiation for ownership of that item before agreeing to return it.

    If you can’t see the blackmail involved in the example and in the Occupy the Farm action, then I don’t know how else to explain to you my deep disagreement and disappointment with Jon Carroll’s column.

  • FiatSlug

    The problem is, Charles, is that not all demonstrations have equal effect. Indeed, the context in which those demonstrations occur often inform the observer as to their effect.

    Most American demonstrations are indeed, fits of pique.  Does that seem a little less absurd to you?

    Demonstrations in America have typically had limited effect for the simple reason that they are flashes in the pan: they either are undercut by vandalism and violence (they quickly lose the aura of non-violence) or they have little to no support.

    All the examples you cite had significant levels of support through all segments of society.  I don’t see that with Occupy for the simple reason that there are no clearly articulated goals which appeal to a wide variety of Americans.

    If, instead, such support existed, then we would not be having this discussion.  We’d be having a discussion about where do we go from here.

    The discussion about where do we go from here is not imminent, nor can it be with the disorganized and anarchic leadership of Occupy.

  • Bruce Love

    Carroll insists that UC has a moral duty to negotiate with Occupy the Farm.  If UC owns the property, by what authority does Occupy the Farm have a claim on negotiation with UC with regard to UC property

    If by “insists” you mean “proposes and gives reasons” then, sure.

    The “authority”  comes from having publicly advanced a very good idea in a quite organized and effective way, with quite a bit public support.

  • The Sharkey

    Bill Bradley had some good comments about where Occupy went (and continues to go) wrong in a recent interview on NPR.

    HOST: As you look at politics today, you have – a lot of people say the kind of citizen movements, you talk about that a lot. But you have not a lot of kind things to say either about the Tea Party or, for that matter, about Occupy Wall Street.

    BRADLEY: Well, I try to be realistic as I perceive the two. I mean, there’s a big difference between the two. And the Tea Party basically had one clear objective: roll back government. And they also decided to immediately get involved with electoral politics. And in 2010, they elected 43 members of Congress who were Tea Party Republicans.

    Flash-forward summer of 2011, Speaker Boehner and President Obama, they get an agreement on principal and three to $4 trillion in debt – deficit reduction over 10 years. Boehner takes it back to his caucus, and the Tea Party Republicans say absolutely not. And the country is brought to the brink of bankruptcy. That’s how quickly things can change.

    People say, oh, well, we can’t change our circumstances. Nobody ever heard of the Tea Party three years ago. So, on the other hand, you take a look at Occupy, which called attention to a very important thing, which is income inequality. And it had a great slogan: We’re the 99 percent. But it did not have a specific program, and it chose not to get involved in electoral politics, and therefore had no hand on the lever of power.

  • FiatSlug

    If by “insists” you mean “proposes and gives reasons” then, sure.
    If by “moral duty” you mean “opportunity to do something good” then, sure.
    The “authority”  comes from having publicly advanced a very good idea in a quite organized and effective way, with quite a bit public support.
    Nice try at twisting my meaning.  It appears that you do not wish to engage in dialogue, but only in spin and word games.
    This is disappointing.  It is illustrative of the monkey-wrenching the Occupy movement insists on using in debating and discussing the issues.  
    Further, it illustrates the greatest failure of the “progressive” movement: they’d rather be self-righteous and morally superior than dirty themselves with engaging and understanding other viewpoints and perspectives.
    Tragic, really.

  • Bruce Love


    Nice try at twisting my meaning.

    I described what Carroll actually wrote compared to what you said he wrote.

    People can read it for themselves:

  • FiatSlug

    Bradley makes the point I’ve been trying to make.

    Occupy needs to settle down and engage people in conversation and develop some coherence and organization.

    Only then can Occupy develop its voice and exert some real power. Breaking the law for the sake of shock value has limited effect and is doomed to irrelevance.

  • FiatSlug

    Indeed they can, Bruce.

    I doubt it will change many people’s minds.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Thanks, Lance.  I agree with you that some of what they were trying to do makes sense, and appreciated having a thumbs-down button, but one or more people were abusing the “report as inappropriate” (abuse) function. 

    Also, you could vote multiple thumbs-down on the same comment if you refreshed browsers/sessions enough, so a determined person could game that system pretty easily and get something hidden.  Rather than “hey, ten people think that was a jerk thing to say, we’ll hide it” it could have been one person hitting refresh a lot. 

  • Report from Marin Avenue

    Just for the record, I drove by the Tract twice this morning while listening to radio reports that featured people chanting and what sounded like chaos.  I saw very few people there.  One woman seemed to be photographing something but I’m unsure what.  There was a scarecrow.  There was a person walking around carrying a flag.  And there were two people with white buckets of water.  One was carefully (as in rationing) watering plants and the second was carrying water with the apparent intent of watering plants.  I saw no UC police – at least not in uniform – along the Marin side of the property.  In short, things seemed pretty low key.

  • JohnD

    Bruce, did you read the linked sfgate article? It has major, misleading, FALSE points in it. 

    Where are these false points coming from?

    Anyone who has been following the news about occupy already knows that the false points in the sfgate article are EXACTLY the occupy viewpoint. 

    Occupy always wants “civil dialog” but facts / viewpoints that disagree with them are never part of their discussion. 

    Paging occupy. You live in a democracy. Instead of taking matters into your own hands (notice that doctor killing anti-abortionists also believe their cause so just that they take the law into their hands), how about you see if there really is community support for your views?

  • JohnD

    Great link and article. This is the point I think commentators like Bruce miss. Those of us who are actual liberals want to see these groups get out of the business of trashing locally owned business (for whatever messed up reasons they give) and test their ideas in the marketplace of ideas. 

    We don’t have marriage equality, and we are not even going to come close to income inequality with occupy approaching things the way they have. 

    They are still on the “diversity of tactics” kick – aka violence, which has made even my super liberal friends who have marched more often then not, sick of them. BTW, does this Bruce guy always post so much? 

  • Anonymous

     There were requests for pizza to be delivered earlier tonight on twitter.  I wonder if buying your vegetables at a market still makes you a 1%er like it did yesterday now that “food sovereignty” now  includes takeout.

  • ArwenUndomniel

     The request that Occupiers come to the meeting but agree to leave the Gill Tract by 10:00 a.m. today is ridiculous. I would go to the meeting and not leave the tract.

       The University is trying to have its cake and eat it too.

  • BTW, does this Bruce guy always post so much?

    LOL, yes

  • Bruce Love


    Anyone who has been following the news about occupy already knows that
    the false points in the sfgate article are EXACTLY the occupy

    Repeating your falsehoods doesn’t make them true.

  • Bruce Love

    KRON (channel 4) is reporting that, a few mintues ago (~9AM) the Occupy the Farm GA decided to decamp and continue the protest from outside the fence.

    Now we will get to see if UC has been honest.

  • The Sharkey

    KTVU has an article up about the decampment.

    Unfortunately it sounds like the “activists” aren’t actually interested in the dialogue that they kept whining about.

    [UC Berkeley] offered protesters, who set up camp at the Gill Tract on
    Earth Day, a chance to discuss the future use of the land as well as
    avoid criminal charges if they moved out by a 10 a.m. deadline Saturday
    After discussing the matter, the Occupy farmers announced
    just after 9 a.m. that they planned to take down their camp and leave,
    but would not take part in the decision process.
    “We are saying we
    don’t need the encampment, but we are also saying that we don’t need
    the UC” said “Christof,” who spoke to KTVU on behalf of the Occupy the
    Farm protesters Saturday morning.

  • The Sharkey

     Here’s an article from Chip Johnson that corrects a lot of the gross errors in John Carroll’s piece:

    Feel free to keep posting the links to the “Occupy the Farm” press releases and denying that they’ve been responsible for spreading misinformation. Who knows, maybe if you repeat it enough people will start to believe it.

  • Bruce Love

     Chip write:

    The property owners can ask police to throw you off the land, they can throw you off themselves or present a legal argument to have you removed and barred from ever returning.

    See, that’s one of those things that some people “know” that just ain’t so.

    The property owner has other choices available.   That’s what Jon Carroll wrote about.

    The errors he made and that were quickly corrected don’t detract from his salient points but they do expose the intellectual dishonesty of some people who try to abuse them to distract from his central points.

  • Report from Marin Avenue

     Would Cheeseboard Pizza be acceptable?

  • The Sharkey

    Yes, the other choice is to give in and turn over your property to anyone who decides to put a tent on it.

    Not something I would consider a real “choice” but I suppose those who do not own property have a different view on property ownership than those who do.

  • Bruce Love

    Kamenskaya said the protesters decided to not attend the meeting because
    they felt it was restrictive — it was not to be an open meeting nor was
    it to take place on the tract. Instead, she said the encampment will
    hold an open house Saturday at 5 p.m. to which they are inviting the
    local city and UC Berkeley communities.

  • The Sharkey

    So basically, they want democracy but only on their terms and when they get what they want at the end of the meeting.

    No wonder none of the Occupy encampments ever seems to lead to long-term change.

  • Anonymous

     “Bruce” (that’s not his real name even though he’s quick to berate anonymous posters) is the Rush Limbaugh caricature of a liberal come to life.  The imitation is so complete and, as you point out, so persistent that it’s likely he’s just a moderately clever perl script and not actually a person.  Just play along and don’t forget that you’re essentially talking to your toaster.

  • Charles_Siegel

     I think that is exactly what is happening nationally:

    “Inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the fight for workers in Madison,
    Wisconsin, the 99% will rise up this spring. In the span of just one
    week, from April 9-15 [2012], 100,000 people will be trained to tell the story
    of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct
    action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to
    win change.” and very organized.

    If you really believe that Occupy must “develop some coherence and organization,” than maybe you should do something constructive about it by joining this group, rather than just criticizing.

    For all of those who have repeated ad nauseum that Occupy is a flash in the pan and has had no lasting effect, I will quote again:

    “Inspired by Occupy Wall Street…”

    Yes, there is more to the world than Berkeley and Albany.

  • Charles_Siegel

     “Demonstrations in America have typically had limited effect for the simple reason that they are flashes in the pan.”

    You need to read more American history.

    “the disorganized and anarchic leadership of Occupy.”

    You need to look at the national Occupy movement and its results, not just at the local people who are disorganized and anarchic. You can start at the link that I posted below.

  • Bruce Love


    Yes, there is more to the world than Berkeley and Albany.

    Not to mention more to those places than you believed if all you knew you read in BS comments ;-).