Legal council for Occupy the Farm and the UC met at the Hayward Hall of Justice Thursday to present arguments on a preliminary injunction that would indefinitely bar the protesters from the UC-owned farmland in Albany.
If Alameda County Superior Court Judge David Hunter approves the injunction, the 15 protesters named in the civil suit filed against them by the UC will be prevented from entering the land known as the Gill Tract or cultivating crops until the suit goes to trial, according to the protesters’ lawyer Dan Siegel.
All 15 protesters were originally issued temporary restraining orders from the farmland on May 16, which was set to last a maximum of 15 days.
“What is the need for an injunction when law enforcement can already arrest people for trespassing on the Gill Tract?” asked Gopal Dayaneni, spokesperson for Occupy the Farm and one of the 15 protesters named in the suit.
The court has up to 60 days to make a decision on the injunction, according to Dayaneni. However, Siegel said trial proceedings for the suit could take a year or more to begin.
Dayaneni said one of the points argued by lawyer Kay Martin, who represented the university in court, was the claim that the Gill Tract is private property, which the injunction would help protect. According to Dayaneni, Siegel argued that because the university is public, land like the Gill Tract should be public as well.
“Their claim that the Gill Tract is public property is completely insufficient,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in a May 12 interview. “It’s like saying any outside group should be able to access any of our buildings or labs, look over our shoulders and dictate how students and faculty learn, study and conduct research.”
The lawsuit, issued on May 9, alleges the defendants “cut the chains securing the gates into Gill Tract, entered the property and have since established a campsite and attempted to grow food” on the tract. The lawsuit additionally alleges the protesters’ continued presence is preventing research on the tract. The encampment lasted until May 14, when UCPD raided the Gill Tract and arrested 10 protesters.
According to Mogulof, the campus is seeking reimbursement for attorneys’ fees, damages to the land and expenses incurred in the suit. Mogulof said initial indications point to those being “very substantial costs.”
Dayaneni said about 50 people packed the courtroom in Hayward to condemn the UC lawsuit and to show their support for the protesters.
“The defendants are determined to fight this case vigorously because we believe it has no merit,” Siegel said. “It’s just a tactic by the university to discourage people from participating in demonstrations.”
Christopher Yee is an assistant news editor.