Armed Police Drive Gardening Occupiers Off Reclaimed Farmland

On Earth Day 2012, hundreds of activists, students, and real food advocates occupied a portion of the Gill Tract, a five-acre, unused University of California agricultural testing that the community had long wanted to be turned into an urban farm. While the occupation appeared spontaneous, it was instead the result of months of planning, seed plant growing, and organizing community support.

Instead of celebrating the collaborative effort to grow healthy food on a piece of fertile land, the UC officials responded by immediately shutting off water to the site. But in a moment of pure serendipity, a late-season storm brought a half-inch of rain to the San Francisco Bay Area the very next day, irrigating the thousands of vegetable starts that were already in the ground.

Unfortunately, school official’s didn’t take Mother Nature’s hint. The Oakland Tribune reports that about 100 University police officers clad in riot gear and brandishing batons showed up at the impromptu community farm yesterday morning. Seven protesters were arrested outside the property’s closed gate for unlawful assembly, and two were arrested inside for trespassing. The rest of the sleepy occupiers were left to break down the camp, but several of them stayed on the Gill Tract over the weekend, asking for a public dialogue with UC Berkeley.

But the University has been silent since releasing a statement before the arrests began. It reads: “We deeply regret that the occupiers’ actions and continued insistence on free and unfettered access to what is an open-air laboratory left us no choice but to take this step.”

One of the organizers of the occupation, Anya Kamenskaya, said she started farming the land out of the need for “sustainable food production in urban areas.”

She said she was partly motivated to trespass and begin farming without permission after trying for six months to get university officials to allow a nearby elementary school to use a small part of the land to teach its students how to grow food. ”The kids were really excited, but the university was mostly worried about liability issues,” Kamenskaya said.

The Gill Tract Farmers Collective has called for a reconvergence at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., at 5 PM today, Tuesday May 15th. There is no word yet on what the University plans to do with all of the vegetation planted by the occupiers.

What do you think? Should the University have allowed the farmers to continue their reclamation of the land? Or did the protesters deserve to be arrested? Share your thoughts in a comment?

Related Reading:

Occupy Wall Street Joins Farmers’ Fight Against Monsanto

Occupy Wall Street Farmers’ March Celebrates Foodie Power

The Future Of Eating

Image via Occupy The Farm


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Michael C.
Michael C5 years ago

Thanks Beth, as usual you hit the ball out of the park.

A sky full of green stars go out to you and your article.

To the 5% of you who choose to show your inability to understand the peoples needs, I can only say...know your shame.

Ellen M.
Ellen M5 years ago

the land can't be both 'unused' AND an experiment. unless said experiment was published as such. apparently the community had tried through public means to have access to this parcel. since nothing happened one way or another it was decided to plant useful food plants and to try to teach young children how to grow food. what is wrong with that??? too many people think the supermarket is the only way to go.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

Only in America, land of the enslaved, the oppressed and the armed police. UC so called "officials" should be taken down by the same swat teams and frog marched to their own jails.

Cindy D.
Cindy D5 years ago

What is wrong with us? Please use your power to make a change - Thank YOU

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Linda T.
Linda T5 years ago

Education should not be about $$$ it should be for the good of the community. How much further down the drain is our society going to go?

federico bortoletto
federico b5 years ago

Grazie delle notizie.

Elsa G.
Else G5 years ago

I think the university did the right thing. They stated that it wan on open air laboratory. So what these people looked at as wasted land may have had an on going experament happen on it, which they have now screwed up. Also you can't just go onto private land and do as you please. How would you like somone to come into your property and start digging it up?
As for the liability issue. The USA is so sue happy I can see their point in denying access. Someone hit themselves in the foot with their own showel could sue the university for it. Just look at the supid woman who sued McDonalds for the cup of hot coffee and WON.

Lydia S.
Lydia Stone5 years ago

I always thought UC Berkeley was a place of progressive ideas and action. I guess it's really just part of the machine.