‘Occupy The Farm’ Deadline Passes, UC Berkeley Weighs Options

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Occupy The Farm, Gill Tract, Berkeley, Albany

Occupy protesters at an encampment on a tract of land on the Berkeley-Albany border, April 23, 2012. (CBS)

ALBANY (CBS SF) — A Saturday deadline for protestors to agree to leave a tract of University of California at Berkeley-owned land voluntarily has passed without a response and university officials were weighing their options.

University officials issued a letter on Friday giving Occupy the Farm protestors until Saturday night to agree to leave the 10-acre Albany property known as the Gill Tract voluntarily. In return, the university offered to conduct a public dialogue on continuing “urban farming” on the land, which is currently used for agricultural research, according to a statement issued by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancelor John Wilton.

The offer was first made at a meeting between university and Occupy the Farm representatives in a face-to-face meeting on Thursday, but the protestors said they could not agree to the offer without discussing it with other group members and reaching consensus, the statement said.

As of Sunday, university officials said they were still waiting for a response. Because student and faculty researchers need to regain access to the property by mid-May in order to conduct their work, if protestors do not agree to leave the university will take action “to ensure the research activities are not impeded and the rule of law is maintained,” the statement said.

“We did not get a response as we hoped and expected last night, so we’re disappointed,” university spokesman Dan Mogulof said Sunday. “At this point we’ll need to evaluate other options to ensure that research can go forward.”

Occupy the Farm took over the Gill Tract, which is located at Marin and San Pablo avenues, on April 22, Earth Day, and has planted crops on the site. Group members have alleged the university plans to develop the property and say they hope to see it preserved for community agriculture.

University officials have said there are no plans to develop the Gill Tract, and that the retail development group members have mentioned is on a different property that has not been farmed since World War II.

Occupy the Farm group member Gopal Dayaneni said early Sunday morning that the group had contacted the university through its attorney saying it wanted to meet again Monday to have further conversations.

“We don’t want a raid, we don’t want police action,” Dayaneni said. “It’s not an appropriate way to resolve the situation.”

“It won’t end well for them regardless,” Dayaneni added. “We’re very committed to seeing the vision of the farm preserved and we have an enormous amount of community support, both in the immediate communities and in the wider area.”

 

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