UC Berkeley regains control of Gill Tract from activists

Police from various UC departments are guarding the barricaded front entrance to Occupy the Farm Monday afternoon. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The Occupy the Farm activists who took over UC Berkeley-owned Gill Tract in Albany on April 22 had largely dispersed by 3:00 pm Monday after the university sent in 100 police officers from eight of the ten UC campus to clear the protesters from the property early in the day.

UC Police have set up barricades at the main entrance to the fields on San Pablo Avenue, and are preventing anyone from parking on the stretch of the avenue that fronts the property. A few activists were present outside the gate and across the street from the site, as was a TV crew, this afternoon, but otherwise the scene was quiet.

A total of nine arrests were made at around 6:30 am this morning, two for trespassing and the others for unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. A solitary protester remains on the site. He has taken up residence in a tree, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof, who says the police are leaving him alone for now.

A raised planter sits just inside the barricades erected by UC Police at the Gill Tract. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Mogulof says the university decided to deploy police in high numbers because experience shows that an overwhelming number of police leads to a reduction in confrontation.

The Cal College of Natural Resources will now begin to prepare the Gill Tract fields for their research purposes. They will also be making an assessment of how much of the planting done by the Gill Tract Farmers Collective can be saved. “We hope that the bulk of it can be kept,” said Mogulof.

Mogulof also confirmed that no development is planned for this part of the UC Berkeley-owned land in Albany. A proposal to build a Whole Foods market and senior housing facility on the plot to the south of the Gill Tract has been under review for some time. Another proposal has also been drafted for open recreational space on the Gill Tract itself for a time in the future when, and if, the land stops being used for agricultural research, he said.

A “Fuck the Police” demonstration is being planned for Monday evening at the Occupy the Farm site, according to many discussions on Twitter.

Police raid, clear out Occupy the Farm, handful of arrests [05.14.12]
UC Berkeley speaks of impasse, seals off Occupy Farm [05.10.12]
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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  • Lhasa7

    Note to would-be future consensus builders: final paragraph here a priceless negative example. Let’s hope it is the witless handiwork of provocateurs.

  • BHS student

    I HAD hoped that they could reconcile and create a farm space/community area for everyone to enjoy. I guess our society isn’t there yet.

  • Anonymous

     I wouldn’t give up, I think there are plenty of places around here that would welcome a garden created by enterprising students like yourself.  Even better would be getting involved with a UC research group using the Gill tract for something other than a stage for political theater.  I knew lots of soils people in grad school and they were always looking for people to help with data collection and things like that.  You’ll also have an excellent experience to put on your college applications.  I’d just start calling or emailing people Damon Lisch ( and tell them you’re interested.

  • Bruce Love

     Amen and I second “anonymous” on the don’t give up.   Once we get past a bunch of apparently obligatory posturing, there may yet be hope.

    Anonymous’ suggestion to politely, respectfully pester Damon Lisch is subversively hopeful.   Now that power has been dutifully asserted, let’s get back to forward.

  • Anon

    they should try setting up their farm in some land that is actually slated for development instead of in a research field

  • The Sharkey

    Watching the live feeds from the police action to remove the trespassers yesterday was bizarre. They would be talking about how they and their garden were all about peace and being positive and “for the children” one minute, and then hurtling obscenities and taunting the police the next.

    If they had any brains they would have gone door-to-door and invited the community to a peaceful candle-light vigil at the entrance to Gill Tract to show support for community farming, but instead they’d rather hate a temper tantrum and kick and yell.

  • The Sharkey

    I hear you, man. It doesn’t help when both sides are being intractable. I wish Occupy the Farm had actually engaged with the UC and gone to the meetings they were invited to.

    One of the really interesting ideas that came as a result of this failed coup was how to use urban farming to address the problem of food deserts in places like Oakland.

    A Gill Tract community farm would be a terrible way of addressing that problem. Gill Tract isn’t in a food desert, farming produce takes significantly longer than buying it, and Gill Tract is further from the food deserts than grocery stores with produce. So as a solution for that specific problem – which is one of the things that the Occupy the Farm protesters said they were trying to address – it stinks.

    But while talking about what a lousy solution Occupy the Farm was for the problem of food deserts non-Occupy folks hit on the idea of buying condemned, foreclosed properties in “bad” neighborhoods in Oakland and flattening the buildings and turning the lots into community gardens.

    Looking on Redfin I see over 80 properties in the West Oakland/Fruitvale areas listed at under $125k. That’s a sum that should be pretty easy for a bunch of rootin’ tootin’ “activist” types to raise for a good cause, and they could probably get local wrecking crews and the Oakland City government to give them some pretty significant help at no cost. Mayor Quan is always looking for positive PR photo opportunities, so I’m sure this would be something she’d be interested in.

    Unfortunately, the bulk of these Occupy types don’t actually care enough about the causes that they’re championing to engage in the kind of long-haul activism that would be required for a project like this. They just want to get stoned in a field or in a tree and get an adrenaline rush from throwing stuff at cops.

    It’s too bad, really.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

    It is good when there is one and only one to prove that one has brains (your way) because then it’s abundantly clear who has brains and who doesn’t.

  • The Sharkey

    Snark fail.
    Try again.

    I suggested a positive course of action.
    I did not say that it was the only positive course of action.

  • batard

    Haven’t seen anybody start “farming” Peoples’ Park yet .. lot of urea in the soil there, should be high in nitrogen.

  • I’m Jes’ Sayin’

     Jes’ sayin’.

  • Anonymous

     The live feeds were really weird and I watched the occupy Wall St. ones almost obsessively.  These guys were trying their hardest to start some kind of violence or scene in order to claim that they were attacked.  One even tried to start a fight with the entire crew hired to put the fence up, yelling unrepeatable things about having sex with their mothers and challenging them to come back in the evening when the cops weren’t around.  The cops and others should be congratulated for not allowing themselves to get pulled into this.

  • Anonymous

     Er, I was being sincere “Bruce” and offering advice to a kid about something that I know a bit about.  You’re just trying to exploit him/her in your silly political theater and should be ashamed of yourself…you’ve really sunk to a new low here.

  • Mike Farrell

    Oakland; the new Detroit?

  • Bruce Love

     It’s not political theater at all.

    You’re just trying to exploit him/her

    The hell I am.   Unlike you.

  • The Sharkey

    I saw video footage of a guy at OWS throwing himself under the wheels of a police scooter and squealing bloody murder to try to make it look like the cop had deliberately run him over.

    It was very convincing from the angle his buddy was shooting it at, until you saw the footage from another person standing four feet to the right that showed that the wheels of the scooter never went over his legs.

  • Bruce Love

    I’d guess this is likely to come around on “The Berkeley Wire” but Prof. Altieri and a Prof. Carr have a new op-ed about the Gill Tract:

    Urban agriculture plays a key role in enhancing urban food security, since the costs of supplying and distributing food from rural to urban areas, or to import food for the cities, are rising continuously, thus increasing urban food insecurity. Take Oakland as an example: In that city, publicly owned land with productive potential totals 1,201 acres. Food production with agro-ecological methods at these sites could potentially produce as much as 15 to 20 percent of Oakland’s fruit and vegetable needs. But to realize this potential, UC Berkeley first needs to recognize the potential of urban agriculture to help solve problems of hunger and unemployment and then launch a major research, education and extension program on urban agriculture that should involve local governments, urban farmers and the whole community in participatory ways so as to address the real needs of the poor and hungry.  The benefits of urban agriculture go beyond producing food:  They extend to the promotion of local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the poor — and of women in particular. Urban agriculture also contributes to the urban ecosystem by greening the city, productively reusing urban wastes, conserving pollinators and wildlife and saving energy involved in the transport of food (in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions!).

    These guys are talking sense.

  • Anonymous

      Take up the White Man’s burden–  The savage wars of peace–  Fill full the mouth of Famine  And bid the sickness cease;  And when your goal is nearest  The end for others sought,  Watch sloth and heathen Folly  Bring all your hopes to nought.

  • Bruce Love

    Take up the White Man’s burden– 

    Yeah, that’s cute, it might benefit poor people disproportionately which means it might benefit non-white’s disproportionately so you can bring up a trope about liberalism.   Back in reality there’s a real food security crisis extant and getting worse at massive scale, so save your poetry and support urban farming, please.

  • Anonymous

    That’s certainly one interpretation of the poem. The one I’m fond of is that it’s a condemnation of the paternalistic attitude many well meaning white people express towards non whites and the idea that they need to be provided for like children. If people in Richmond and elsewhere want fruits and vegetables and urban gardens they are perfectly capable of getting them without you “Bruce”.

  • Bruce Love

    The one I’m fond of is that it’s a condemnation of the paternalistic
    attitude many well meaning white people express towards non whites and
    the idea that they need to be provided for like children.

    That’s not what’s going on here.

  • Bruce Love

    A number of people, “damn hippies”, presumably in need of showers and jobs, have released a statement in support Occupy the Farm.  Some of them are apparently famous food authors and such:

    The statement does not include any information about whatever plans they may be formulating to take over your living room, rearrange the furniture, and demand “negotiations”.    They remark:

    The Gill Tract farmers are rooted in the Albany community, and supported by hard-working volunteers. Their vision of using the space to teach children agro-ecology, feed those in need in the community and train future farmers in organic farming is an admirable use of the land and can be realized without affecting the UC negatively. In fact, UC should welcome this stewardship as an instance of community-based education and sustainable land use.

    Evidence of the illegitimacy of their right to hold and express an informed opinion critical of UC is presumed to be forthcoming.

  • The Sharkey

    From the statement:

    We urge the administration and campus police to drop all charges
    against the farmers and protesters, and to engage in good-faith
    negotiations to ensure that the Gill Tract is reserved for
    community-based agricultural use to be governed as a form of commons in
    conjunction with the farmers and local community.

    The UC tried that.
    The “farmers” refused to participate in good-faith negotiations.

    Too bad.

  • Bruce Love


    The UC tried that.

    If anyone would like to read the facts of the case rather than taking The Sharkey’s word for what’s up, Occupy the Farm’s own web site has a pretty literal account.

    Briefly, the protesters rejected a meeting format — secret location, closed attendance, two seats, and civil and criminal charges pending (so no sane lawyer would let the farmers speak under these conditions).

    The protesters offered an alternative venue, a few hours later, open to the public, no conditions attached to UC’s sending a representative.   To the best of my knowledge UC declined to attend.

  • Bruce Love

    The East Bay Express has gotten  “roughly half” the story about the kind of Gill Tract research at issue, how it has been represented by its UC advocates, and how that compares to reality.

    This is important to keep in mind:

    Organizers of Occupy the Farm contacted for this article said they support academic freedom, and were wary of jumping into any debates about the nature of research that has been conducted at the Gill Tract. After planting their crops in late April, Occupy the Farm organizers posted several open letters to all the researchers inviting them to continue their projects alongside the working farm.

    There is much to criticize about the research in question but it is not the occupier’s particular cause.

  • The Sharkey

    Representatives for the “farmers” were invited to attend a Saturday meeting facilitated by College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless to begin working out the details about how to continue urban agriculture on the land alongside faculty, staff and student research, provided the protesters dismantle the encampment. The UC also offered to drop all charges against the “farmers” if they would dismantle the encampment.

    They have no right to the land, and should have been happy to have the UC offer to work with them to find a compromise. Instead they stuck with a childish all-or-nothing approach and demand for immediate gratification and lost a serious opportunity to have a significant impact on the long-term use of the Gill Tract.

  • Bruce Love

    Gill Tract Issues Dominate Council Meeting

    The council did not directly address how future talks about the development, planned immediately north and south of Monroe Street, might affect the Gill Tract. But Councilwoman Joanne Wile credited Occupy the Farm with bringing urban farming goals back into the spotlight.

    “The young people farming at the Gill Tract really issued a wake-up call,” she said, adding that the university and the city of Albany “need to continue talking.”

    Council passed three pro-farm measures, the report says.

  • The Sharkey

     Too bad the Occupy kiddos were too childish to take part.