Press Release from Occupy the Farm
Albany, CA – UC police moved in to break up the two-day Gill Tract Farm in the early morning hours of May 13. Despite a transformation of the vacant lot from abandoned field to blossoming community farm and democratic forum, the UC used police force to evict the peaceful farmers. Occupy the Farm will continue to maintain a presence all day, and will be reconvening at 5 pm in order to water and continue caring for the recently transplanted vegetables.
“The University claims to care about ‘community interests and democratic processes,’ but this morning’s response is just another example of their one-sided and poor-faith interactions with the community groups who have been articulating an alternative vision for the Gill Tract over the past fifteen years,” says Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, Albany resident and founding member of the Albany Farm Alliance.
Approximately thirty police officers amassed shortly after 4:30 am, prepared to remove people from the newly planted farm. This show of force came in spite of Occupy the Farm’s public announcement declaring that the farmers would intentionally de-camp on Monday May 13th. Given the neglected quality of the land, it was decided that another day of farmwork and soil remediation was needed to get the farm into productive shape.
“The UC’s use of police intervention was completely unnecessary and unreasonable,” says Occupy the Farm member, Matthew McHale, “especially after we publicly declared we were leaving later today.”
“This is a pathetic waste of public resources, to arrest people who are engaged in a constructive project to demonstrate how public land can be used for the public good,” added Dan Siegel, the lawyer for the group.
Over the course of the weekend, hundreds of students, farmers, families, and interested community members participated in the revitalization of a neglected part of the historic farmland bordering San Pablo Avenue and Monroe Street. Rows of squash, kale, tomato, corn, lettuce, and even flowers replaced 5-foot high weeds, as farmers created a vibrant community space on the site of a proposed parking lot and chain grocery store.
Since Occupy the Farm first planted on the Gill tract in April 2012, the group has organized at least 10 public forums focused on the Gill Tract as an asset to community-driven participatory research. The UC Berkeley administration has consistently failed to attend, despite being invited. As one of the last educational resources for community members in the East Bay, the Gill Tract holds great potential as an educational resource for community members and for UC urban agricultural research, and for providing local, sustainable, organic food.