Protesters continue occupation of UC-owned land

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ALBANY, Calif. — Protesters continued occupying and farming a UC-owned plot of land in Albany Monday and said they plan on staying as long as they can.

After arriving Sunday and pitching a few tents, about 40 protesters remained Monday at the Gill Tract plot, which is located near the intersection of San Pablo and Marin avenues and used for UC research projects.

The demonstrators consist of community members, urban farming enthusiasts and people aligned with the Occupy movement who have come together in hopes that the land be turned into a farming space. So far, they have ploughed and tilled the land and have planted broccoli, chard, squash, beans, kale and pumpkins.

UC Berkeley sophomore and demonstrator Lesley Haddock said the protesters are occupying 5.3 acres of the land partially in hope that it will not be developed.

“This is really the best land for farming,” Haddock said. “It is the richest agricultural soil left in the entire East Bay. This is our last chance at a center for urban agriculture.”

Currently, plans proposed for a space near the location being occupied would allow for the construction of a Whole Foods Market.

As of Monday evening, none of the protesters had been arrested. UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said UCPD will enforce campus policy banning people from setting up tents on campus property but only if and when they can do so “safely and effectively.”

“We don’t want a repeat of the conflicts that marred last semester’s events,” Mogulof said.

When tents were erected on campus during the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protest, police officers physically confronted hundreds of protesters, making arrests, taking down the tents and injuring several people.

In response to the Albany occupation, the university turned off the water supply that provides irrigation to the land.

“This land is essentially an open-air research lab — it is not public land in the common sense,” Mogulof said. “It would not make sense to provide them with resources to continue an activity that would stand in the way of research that our university is conducting.”

According to Keith Gilless, dean of the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, the research that was being conducted by the campus involves plant biology.

“My concern is that the researchers who have things planted there will not be able to complete their projects,” Gilless said.

According to Haddock, the demonstrators are not concerned with potentially disrupting university research because they believe that biotech efforts do not benefit the greater community.

As of Monday, the demonstrators had tilled some of the land used by researchers but had intentionally roped off UC Berkeley associate professor Miguel Altieri’s research.

“The point is that there are many other places that our university could be doing biotech research, and this land has particularly great potential for farming,” Haddock said.

But Gilless said that to call the projects biotech is mischaracterizing the research, which he said studies plant pathology and disease.

According to UC Berkeley senior and Occupy Cal member Navid Shaghaghi, the protesters plan to remain camping out as long as they can.

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  • I_h8_disqus

    While I can’t read the text on the T-shirt of the man farming in the picture that went with this article, I can make out the hammer and sickle.  That is enough to make me think that this group has people in it who we don’t want in the Occupy movement.  The hammer and sickle is a symbol that has represented death and oppression for millions of people around the world.  Anyone who actually has the good of the people in mind would never wear such a symbol.  They will eventually find a way to sacrifice innocents in pursuit of their tyranny. 

  • Yourelder

    Good grief, Mr Mogulof, why not let these young people use  resources to continue a positive  action; instead of only paying attention to them, when they do something negative. 

    • I_h8_disqus

      I am sure he would let them use the resources if they were doing something positive.  At this time, they are not concerned about destroying ongoing research except for one professor’s plot, and that does not sound positive.  We have a general protester like Ms. Haddock making agricultural and research claims that she has no real knowledge about, and that indicates that the group does not know if they are doing harm.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

    So silly people continue to do silly things. Is a daily update necessary, as if somehow what these people are doing even matters in the long run?

  • libsrclowns

    It’s fun to see the kiddies do the farming gig on public land. Mao would be happy.

  • Guest

    I want to know more about the research projects that were there. Can anybody provide any further information? 

    • Guest

       Here’s the website for Prof. Altieri, who was specifically mentioned in the article as doing research there: http://ourenvironment.berkeley.edu/people_profiles/miguel-altieri/ It looks like he is studying “sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource
      conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and
      economically viable.” This is probably why they roped-off his area.

    • Guest

       Here’s the website for Prof. Altieri, who was specifically mentioned in the article as doing research there: http://ourenvironment.berkeley.edu/people_profiles/miguel-altieri/ It looks like he is studying “sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource
      conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and
      economically viable.” This is probably why they roped-off his area.

    • Damon Lisch

      Aside from Prof. Altieri, who works on sustainable agriculture, most of the rest of the field is used for basic research, using corn as a model system.  The work includes investigation of the genes involved in plant development (how does a plant decide to make a leaf), investigation into how plants deal with genes that make too many copies of themselves (transposons) by silencing them, and how plants respond to cycles of light and dark by turning the right genes on and off.  None of this research is involved with GMOs, Monsanto, or biotech “improvement” of corn.  It is basic research, which by definition involves trying to understand fundamental truths about biology.

    • Damon Lisch

      Aside from Prof. Altieri, who works on sustainable agriculture, most of the rest of the field is used for basic research, using corn as a model system.  The work includes investigation of the genes involved in plant development (how does a plant decide to make a leaf), investigation into how plants deal with genes that make too many copies of themselves (transposons) by silencing them, and how plants respond to cycles of light and dark by turning the right genes on and off.  None of this research is involved with GMOs, Monsanto, or biotech “improvement” of corn.  It is basic research, which by definition involves trying to understand fundamental truths about biology.

  • Guest

    “This land is essentially an open air research lab, it is not public land in the common sense”

    Yeah, but you plan to sell it to private developers to build a (ironically) Whole Foods and adjacent parking lot. So really it’s not.  Therefore it is kind of public land in the “common sense” and people are well within their rights to protest its sale.

    • 1776

       They can protest the sale all they want but don’t while when the police show up.

    • Stan De San Diego

      “Yeah, but you plan to sell it to private developers to build a (ironically) Whole Foods and adjacent parking lot.”

      You don’t suppose the fact that the UC system is in deep financial trouble just might have something to do with that, do you?

    • guest

      Yeah, except the part of Gill that they are occupying is being used for research, which can’t be done now.  The part that will be a Whole Foods is south of that.

    • student

      It doesn’t belong to the protestors. It belongs to UC Berkeley. End of.