ALBANY, Calif. — Members of Occupy the Farm broke into UC-owned research land in Albany Saturday morning in order to weed and harvest crops they planted during their three-week occupation of the land that ended in May.
The approximately 50 activists on hand at the land known as the Gill Tract were spurred to action by a scheduled harvest by the city of Albany to which attendance was limited.
Although the city’s event was canceled, activists nevertheless convened at the Gill Tract Saturday in order to weed and harvest, according to Occupy the Farm spokesperson Anya Kamenskaya.
At 9:40 a.m., the lock to the tract’s west gate was cut, and the activists immediately went into the field near the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Marin Way and began tending the crops.
“This is a fantastic return to the farm,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Ian Saxton. “It’s a victory in the sense that we planted some crops and now we’re picking them.”
Although officers were on hand to observe and announced that protesters were trespassing and could be subject to citation and arrest, UCPD declined to issue an official statement as to how they plan to respond to Saturday’s break-in.
“They have no regard for property rights, no regard for the research being done there, no regard for community-based democratic process,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “It’s hard to understand their petulance about not being invited to a weeding party when they turned down an invitation (in May) to be part of the process.”
Mogulof said the campus will not decide whether or not to seek legal action against those who entered the tract Saturday until the activists’ actions are assessed.
Shortly after the activists entered the Gill Tract, campus associate adjunct professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology Frank Harmon, who planted corn on the land in order to study its behavior, arrived to check on his crops.
Although he said his crops looked fine, Harmon said he had no intention of speaking with Occupy the Farm about what he is doing.
“They’re not here legitimately, so there’s no reason for me to talk to them,” Harmon said. “We already went through this, so it’s clear what they think and what we’re doing here.”
The activists left the tract without incident around 1 p.m. after deciding to pickle and stew the vegetables they harvested and then distributing the prepared food to neighborhood organizations including Phat Beets Produce, Food Not Bombs, People’s Grocery and Albany High School.
In a press release issued Saturday morning, farm organizers said they also plan to attend Monday’s Albany City Council meeting, which will address the future of the development project on a portion of the land not used by campus researchers.
Christopher Yee is an assistant news editor.
News editor Adelyn Baxter contributed to this report.