Individuals arrested, cited for trespassing in protest of Gill Tract development

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Two Occupy the Farm protesters were arrested and one cited and released Monday morning for trespassing on a plot of land on the Gill Tract, which is a university-owned site in Albany, California.

At 6 a.m., five members of Occupy the Farm — a group that supports agroecological research and sustainable farming on the land — entered the site and sat in a meditation circle, according to Occupy the Farm member Ryan Rising.

When workers started operating construction machinery to remove the site’s topsoil, one protester stood in the path of a bulldozer despite a warning from UCPD, Rising said.

By 10 a.m., UCPD had cited and released Sam Bower and arrested Tyler Scheaffer and Pancho Ramos, who were taken to Berkeley Jail, according to Rising. The protesters, Rising said, were released about noon.

Monday’s occupation is the latest of a string of protests at the Gill Tract. On Jan. 28, two protesters were arrested and cited for trespassing after chaining themselves to a tractor.

The Gill Tract has been the site of controversy since the university first introduced development plans in 2007. The land is slated to include senior housing and a Sprouts Farmers Market — along with other, smaller retail stores — and was approved by Albany City Council in March 2014.

“We believe that the public assets of a public university is for public good,” said Occupy the Farm member Gustavo Oliveira. “The high-quality soils in that area are much more valuable for agroecology than it is for rent from this commercial establishment.”

Once finished, the development is expected to generate $1 million in revenue per year, according to campus officials. As campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof previously said, the Gill Tract development marks a “win-win-win” compromise among students, faculty and Albany residents.

Oliveira said, however, that the land could be even more profitable if it were turned into a research center supporting science in sustainable farming and agroecology and were open for tours to elementary and middle school students.

“Our vision (is) that we see this land not only as a valuable asset but also representative of priorities for research and society that are being ignored by the administration,” Oliveira said.

Approximately 10 acres of the Gill Tract are currently used by the campus’s College of Natural Resources for agricultural research, as well as by the Gill Tract Community Farm.

While some may be unhappy with the planned development resulting from seven years of public review, Mogulof said that in an era of state disinvestment, the university does not have the luxury to dedicate resources to the needs of a few.

“We think it’s time to move on,” Mogulof said.

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ayoonhendricks.

A previous version of this article misquoted Gustavo Oliveira as saying the high-quality spoils on a plot of land in the Gill Tract were valuable for agroecology. In fact, Oliveira was referring to the high-quality soils of the land.