Occupy the Farm protesters continue farming on Gill Tract

Protestors, attempting to harvest crops, were originally unable to enter the Gill Tract due to a locked gate and the police. They later entered through another entrance.
Derek Remsburg/Senior Staff
Protestors, attempting to harvest crops, were originally unable to enter the Gill Tract due to a locked gate and the police. They later entered through another entrance.

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Occupy the Farm protesters broke into UC-owned research land in Albany again Sunday to tend to the crops they planted on the Gill Tract earlier this spring.

About 30 people showed up at noon to tend to and gather the crops after diverting the attention of the guards and trespassing onto the enclosed land.

The protests first began after the members of Occupy the Farm heard about the University Village Mixed Use Project, a proposal the Albany City Council was considering that would construct a Whole Foods Market, a senior housing complex and a mixed retail center on a portion of land belonging to UC Berkeley’s University Village housing complex.

Protesters said the development project — which was planned for several years and was finally approved by Albany City Council on July 9 — provides no guarantees against the agricultural land being paved away. Furthermore, they said the mega-complex may impact the soil and increase car exhaust in the area, which would cause air pollution and asthma for Albany residents.

“Most importantly, there is no guarantee that in the future the agricultural land will not be developed further,” said Kelly Jewett, a UC Berkeley fifth-year and Occupy the Farm member. “In all reality, there is no explicit intention to develop agricultural land.”

Keep Albany Local, a local organization against the project, has spearheaded a petition that includes over 1,400 signatures calling for a referendum of the city council’s decision. If the petition is approved by the Albany city clerk, a referendum will appear on the November election ballot, giving Albany residents the option to rescind approvals for the development project, said Sally Sommer, an Occupy the Farm member and Berkeley resident.

Jewett said the protesters’ goals are to continue their efforts and create a working farm collective that is open to the public and functions as an educational resource for the East Bay community.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof has said the university does not have the resources to monitor the area full-time and that pursuing lawsuits against the Occupy the Farm protesters was not their priority.

“We are in a difficult situation and don’t have the resources to monitor the Gill Tract around the clock,” Mogulof said earlier this month. “There is a group that seems to care little about property rights or the rule of law. We need to focus on ensuring that the research goes unimpeded and unharmed.”

Though UCPD officers told protesters not to damage the property, members of the Occupy the Farm said they did not feel like they were trespassing because the Gill Tract is public land.

“(Trespassing) is not really a significant aspect of this,” Jewett said. “Personally, I feel that this is public land. They don’t put a fence up around Sproul Plaza.”

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  • Dan

    WHOLE FOODS IS NOT GOING IN THE SPACE WHERE THEY ARE PLANTING.

    WHOLE FOODS IS SLATED TO GO IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT AREA.

    All they are doing is disrupting scientific research, not preventing Whole Foods in any way.

  • Ed Rippy

    Thank you for the story! Mr. Mogulof seems to have a one-sided view of property rights and the rule of law. Does the public not have the right to till public property? If the local government is going against the wishes of the community, its rule is unjust. Civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action are in the finest tradition of US political struggle from Thoreau to King.

    One minor update (I was there): you reported about 30 people there at noon; I counted @ least 50 later on when they gathered.

    • reztips

      Say Eddie, does the public have the right to till the public property of Tilden Park? Of Peoples Park where the bums & druggies sleep? Of the lawns on UCB campus?

      Maybe your fellow ideologues should till your brain and that J Poirer. Those brains have clearly been laying fallow too long…

    • guest

      Yeah, right. You’re a regular freedom rider. What a sad joke the Left has become.

  • reztips

    I would be personally delighted if the campus police would assist the Occupy pinheads in “buying the farm”-if you know what I mean. ;-)>

  • J Poirier

    Jewett is right: The land is public. It is owned by UC Berkeley, which is owned by the people of California. Too bad for all of the people who have posted comments below: You’re simply wrong (and goofily rude to boot).

    • Stan De San Diego

      Care to point out specifically where we are (supposedly) wrong?

  • love good photos

    great photograph.

  • bob

    maybe if
    Kelly Jewett spent less time protesting and more time studying she wouldn’t be a UC Berkeley fifth year…

    • alex

      maybe if bob understood that it is a student’s right to use their time at university based on their own discretion, and that the number of years spent at such an institution does not correlate with the level of commitment to academic success and study, then maybe bob would not be so judgmental and obtuse.

  • I_h8_disqus

    Remember when people used to think Whole Foods was good for the community?

  • reztips

    The Occupy scum are the very people who say the Third World isn’t growing enough food. And then when UC researchers try to develop vegetables whose yield is increased, Occupy intrudes upon this research. This is the height of hypocrisy, but the KPFA/Occupy crowd never really gave a fuck about people in the Third World-all they give is ideological lip-service…

    • I_h8_disqus

      I have not heard a lot from the Occupy side that we are not growing enough food for the third world. I have heard a lot about how the population there is too large. I think they would be happy to eliminate most of the world’s population and not develop high yield foods.

  • Guest

    miguel altieri should be in jail

  • Russell Bates

    farmers attempting to arrest the development of the gill tract farm.

    • “Special” Ed Jones

      They are NOT farmers, merely attention-starved children.

    • Russell Bates

      …from commercial development.

    • reztips

      Master Bates, as ignorant as always. Thanks as usual for the laughs…

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

    These idiots are getting WAY too much fee publicity…

    • Guest

      What, you think that you should only get on the news if you’re rich and pay for it?

      • Stan De San Diego

        No, you should get in the news if you do something productive and worthwhile of notice. These losers merely can’t live without constant attention.