Since their removal from UC-owned vacant lots Wednesday, members of the Indigenous Land Action Committee, or ILAC, and their supporters have continued to advocate joint stewardship of the land and its placement under a conservation easement to preserve the land for farming and research.
The occupation of the vacant lots, adjacent to the UC Gill Tract Community Farm, began Oct. 11 with a group of approximately 80 protesters, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. On Monday the group had shrunk to about 30 to 40 people, and by Wednesday, approximately 15 to 20 protesters remained when they were removed by UCPD on the grounds of trespassing on private property.
Mogulof said that the campus prefers to resolve matters of protest occupation with the cooperation of those assembled and that those gathered were given fair warning over the course of previous days that they were trespassing on UC-owned land.
The group was read a dispersal order Wednesday morning and given 10 minutes to gather its belongings and leave, which it did peacefully by 5:30 a.m. None of the protesters were arrested.
On Oct. 11, the group issued a letter to the university asking for representatives from the campus’s side to meet with a member of the ILAC.
“It would be wonderful if the university would have the graciousness to sit down with us to talk about this land,” said Hank Herrera, convener for the ILAC. “We are inviting the university to share stewardship of the land with us.”
The campus maintains that notice of the project was conducted in a legal manner and that development of the lots into a senior center and several retail stores will begin once the city of Albany issues a building permit.
These meetings, which took place over the course of seven years, were meant to insure that the development of the land aligned with the interests of the community. But Mogulof said that during the meetings, the concerns in the ILAC’s letter were not raised and that he has never heard of a request to perform ceremonies or other acts suggesting that the land has cultural significance.
He added that the project has survived numerous court challenges. In March 2010, Albany City Council voted unanimously in favor of the development.
Additionally, Mogulof said, legal research into the claims of the letter issued by the ILAC was conducted and determined the claims to be unfounded.
Herrera stated that while the campus held community meetings for the people of Albany, no effort was made to specifically make contact with indigenous people.
With regard to the possibility of future action on the part of the ILAC, Herrera stated, “Let’s just say, this story’s not over.”