Campus officials say costs related to Occupy the Farm top $300,000

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The costs incurred as a result of the occupation of UC-owned land in Albany and the May 14 police raid on the encampment total more than $300,000, according to UC Berkeley and city of Albany officials.

The campus will seek to recoup its losses in a civil suit filed against 15 Occupy the Farm protesters. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, as of June 13, costs incurred to UCPD are estimated at $311,915.

In an effort to prove that the land would be better utilized with urban farming, the group began occupying and cultivating the land, known as Gill Tract, in April, only to be forcibly removed by police last month. The tract is used by the College of Natural Resources to conduct plant research.

According to Mogulof, the campus estimates that it spent $89,045 on mutual aid costs for officers from seven other UC campuses for their time and room and board; $84,268 on overtime costs of UCPD officers; $63,717 on contract officials provided by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office; $53,523 on private security contractors and $21,362 on supplies and equipment.

As for the cleanup efforts, Mogulof estimates another $53,548 will go to Physical Plant and Campus Services for materials and labor costs related to the repair of fences, gates, locks, pipes and lighting rental at the Gill Tract.

Albany Police Chief Mike McQuiston estimated his department incurred $16,965 in overtime costs for officers, public safety dispatchers and other support personnel involved in the raid, as well as an additional $100 in expenditures for miscellaneous related materials and supplies.

McQuiston said in an email that his department’s involvement in the raid was focused “on minimizing risk to persons, property and governmental operations outside the Gill Tract should there be any ‘spillover’ effects, and in coordinating operational aspects such as traffic safety and parking control, while also ensuring the right of all persons to peaceably assemble.”

According to McQuiston, the city’s public works department also spent $320 for overtime as a result of the raid. McQuiston said in the email that he had no plans to seek reimbursement for the expenses, nor was he aware of any cost recovery efforts being pursued by the city.

However, the university is planning to recoup its losses by seeking damages in its civil suit against the protesters.

“We cannot be forced to bear the burdens of illegal activities,” Mogulof said.

Mogulof said he does not yet have the official amount the university is seeking in the civil suit because the university is still compiling the total cost, which includes punitive damages, costs of the suit and attorneys’ fees.

Upon learning of the costs incurred to the university, the city of Albany and the Albany Police Department, Gopal Dayaneni — an Occupy the Farm spokesperson and one of the protesters named in the civil suit — said the university chose to act on the occupation but did not have to.

“They chose to militarize the space,” Dayaneni said. “It was overkill and unnecessary, and it is an absurdity to say that Occupy the Farm is responsible for that.”

Dayaneni said the university is “trying to quash public speech and public advocacy” with the suit.

Occupy the Farm’s month-long occupation of the Gill Tract created public awareness for food sovereignty and urban agriculture, according to Dayaneni.

“There was unprecedented community participation in that space,” he said.