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Nine Arrested After Early-Morning Police Raid at Gill Tract

Occupiers said they were surprised by a police raid Monday morning. UC Berkeley issued a statement citing growing demands from faculty and neighbors to take action. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for updates on this story.

Follow Albany Patch on Twitter for updates. More information is available via #occupythefarm on Twitter. See all the background on Occupy the Farm on Albany Patch.

This story was posted at 9:25 a.m. Monday and updated at 10:50 p.m.

University of California police arrested nine people Monday morning in a raid designed to end the occupation of the Gill Tract and allow the university to begin research preparations this week, officials said. 

One young man, who appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, remained on the property as of 9:44 a.m. about 15 feet up in a tree, said University of California spokesman Dan Mogulof. Authorities were in communication with him, and he didn't appear to have any gear or supplies. (There was no update as to his status as of 10 p.m. Monday.)

Urban farming activists took over the university-owned field three weeks ago to plant crops and advocate for a publicly-accessible community farm on the land. The Gill Tract has historically been used for scientific research, but has long been eyed by urban farming advocates as a prime location for a community farm.

Mogulof and UC Police Department Lt. Eric Tejada said police arrived at the Gill Tract at about 6:15 a.m. and found about 10 people sleeping.

(In a statement posted at 4:20 p.m. Monday, Occupy the Farm said that "UC representative Dan Mogulof incorrectly told media that ten people were sleeping on the land at the time of the raid. However, the Gill Tract Farmers Collective ended its encampment on the morning of Saturday May 12th by moving all camp infrastructure outside of the Tract. No one was camped on the land when the police force surrounded and enclosed it.") 

Tejada said police gave orders to disperse every minute for 10 minutes to allow people to leave, then also "made personal contact" with Occupy the Farm supporters inside a fenced area at University Village that was not open to the public.

Two people chose to remain in the area and were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, said Tejada. Their names were not available from police. 

Seven others were arrested on the sidewalk area outside the Gill Tract, he said. Police gave a dispersal order on the sidewalk related to unlawful assembly, and those who remained were arrested. 

According to Occupy the Farm, in the 4:20 p.m. statement: "Two of the arrestees had entered the farm after the raid began, to water plants. Seven additional people were arrested while watching the police operation from San Pablo Avenue." 

Around 8 a.m., an Alameda County sheriff's department van exited the Gill Tract through ; chanting could be heard inside the van.

Close to 100 police from every University of California campus except San Diego and Merced participated in the morning operations, authorities said. 

Mogulof said police would maintain a "stepped-up presence" at the Gill Tract in the coming days as researchers from the College of Natural Resources begin to prepare the fields for planting. 

Mogulof said, if action hadn't been taken Monday, a whole year of research would have been lost. 

Mogulof said the university had hoped to avoid "any kind of confrontation" and had undertaken a "patient dialogue" over the past few weeks with the activists, who refused to cede control of the area back to the university. College of Natural Resources to speak with members of Occupy the Farm on numerous occasions. 

On Saturday, Occupy the Farm members announced that they were moving their camp off the Gill Tract, but that they would stay in the area so they could continue caring for the crops they planted. 

Mogulof said the research would not have been possible with Occupy the Farm still residing or working in the area. 

"You can't do good science when you have a few dozen uninvited, untrained guests roaming around in what is essentially an open-air laboratory," he said.

Occupy the Farm supporters said Monday that the police response was over the top.

Lesley Haddock, a media liaison for Occupy the Farm, said she was shocked by Monday's police raid: "I honestly thought it was over. We've been acting in good faith with the university. We've made clear we want research to continue. I was not expecting them to go ahead and use police force on people who are making their best effort to come to an agreement."

Said David Grefrath, an Occupy the Farm supporter: "I'm feeling like all of this is super bizarre," Grefrath said. "We were already in some form of negotiations with the university, so why do they need 80 to 100 police in riot gear?"

As of about 10 p.m., Occupy the Farm reported on Twitter that everyone arrested also received seven-day stay-away orders from all university property. 

Another Twitter user, Ergoat, posted around the same time that everyone arrested at the Gill Tract on Monday morning had already been released. (The University of California has not yet released their names.)

The urban farming activists said Monday that is time for a new era at the Gill Tract.

"This land has been fought over for decades," said Anya Kamenskaya, a spokesperson for the Gill Tract Farmers Collective (via the group's afternoon news release). "UC needs to let go of control and supervision of this land. For decades, it has fenced off this land from use by the community. Today's show of force is merely another in a long history of the UC's rejection of community access to this prized piece of farmland."

Saturday morning, university officials to discuss the creation of an urban farming program at the Gill Tract. Gilless said Saturday that this program has been in development for some time, and that he is working to fill a teaching position that would be related to these efforts.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Michael Barnes May 16, 2012 at 06:45 AM
New knowledge can be used for good or bad purposes. Recombinant DNA was recognized early on for it's potential to do both good things and bad things: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asilomar_Conference_on_Recombinant_DNA Many important drugs have been developed using recombinant DNA techniques--human insulin, the hepatitis-B vaccine, human growth hormone and EPO, a synthetic hormone that stimulates red blood cell production in kidney dialysis patients and cancer patients on chemo. But these last two drugs in particular have a dark side--they have been abused by athletes, and EPO abuse in particular killed many young bicycle racers in Europe. Nothing says basic research can only be used for good (or at least what you would consider good). Nuclear-tipped ICBMs require small computers that can rapidly perform calculus. Therefore should we destroy the works of Newton and Leibniz, the inventors of calculus? And how would you balance this against organic produces like Earthbound farms, a giant corporation, or Del Cabo organic tomatoes, a company that has been accused of establishing environmentally destructive (but organic) farms in the Mexican desert?
Kirsten Schwartz May 16, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Ms. Shapiro, my point was not to reveal I have rude opinions about you, but that I don't post them.
Damon Lisch May 16, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Hey Kirsten, Totally off topic, but I know a podcast you would love. It's called "Lexicon Valley", and it is about language. It is smart, occasionally profane and sometimes just a bit snarky. One of the hosts is the same guy that does "On the media". I just heard an episode and it made me think of you.
Arwen May 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Anna Shapiro wrote:"...I've read numerous comments you've made in the past week that strike me as bullish, elitist, and narcissistic." Response: So true!
David Sanger May 21, 2013 at 12:24 AM
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