On the morning of May 14, UCPD officers took back the Gill Tract, the University of California-owned piece of land in Albany that had been occupied by protesters.
The raid of the Occupy the Farm encampment was implemented successfully, with the arrest of nine protesters and without violence. But we are alarmed by the purported cost of more than $300,000.
For a campus hampered by budget cuts and tuition hikes, spending an estimated $311,915 to kick a dozen or so farmers off land seems outrageous. Most of the expenses make sense when broken down, but the not the $89,045 spent for the time, room and board of officers from seven other UC campuses. To us, a more cost-efficient alternative would have been to request aid from local agencies whose help would not have incurred the same kind of travel expenses.
With that said, it is hard to criticize the actions of the police force. Due to the controversy surrounding the police’s use of batons during the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal demonstration, UCPD is, not surprisingly, acting cautious. And all things considered, they handled the Occupy the Farm encampment well. They took down the camp early in the morning when there would be the least people and the least disturbances. Of the more than 30 demonstrators present during the raid, only nine were arrested — two for remaining on the land and seven for unlawful assembly.
After all, the land is owned by the UC, not the community. While we would have liked to see more discussion and cooperation between the two parties, campus administrators maintained they exhausted efforts to communicate with protesters so as to avoid police action. While we are saddened the result was a police raid, the UC had every right to take back their land.
We are disappointed that the campus is suing 15 of the protesters to make up for the cost of the raid. It is better to be safe than sorry, but when faced only with a group of nonviolent farmers, the police seemed to have an excessive number of officers. We don’t know what contributions were made by the officers from other UC campuses, except that they led to an exorbitant cost.
When it’s all said and done, the police did their job — though we hope in the future the department looks for more cost-efficient ways of doing so.