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‘Occupy The Farm’ Activists Reclaim UC-Owned Land In Albany

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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)

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ALBANY (CBS SF) — A tract of farmland owned by the University of California, Berkeley in Albany is once again being taken over by a group of “Occupy the Farm” activists Saturday, police and members of the group say.

Several dozen people Saturday afternoon marched onto agricultural fields located near the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues, part of a property they referred to as the Gill Tract, to protest the university’s plans to build a chain grocery store there.

More than 100 protesters who had gathered on the tract were pulling weeds and preparing to plant some 8,000 plants by 3 p.m., organizer Lesley Haddock, 21, said.

She said the group plans to plant zucchini, kale, summer squash, collards and other vegetation and intends to spend the night “under the stars” on the university-owned land.

“The Gill Tract is a really prime piece of a larger puzzle for us to move away from industrialized agriculture and toward people controlling their own food systems,” said Haddock, a third-year student in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources.

“I’d really like to see the UC fulfill its public mission of being a resource for California and really serving the public, and it worries me that the university has been trending toward privatization over the last decade,” she said.

As of 3:30 p.m., she said no protesters had been arrested, although police officers standing outside of the Gill Tract throughout the day have issued multiple statements that the protesters are trespassing on university property.

A UC Berkeley police officer referred all inquiries about the protest to a university spokeswoman, who was not available for comment this afternoon.

In a statement issued on Thursday in anticipation of the protest, university officials said they would “not allow a permanent encampment of our property” and were working with the city of Albany and other authorities to “ensure preparedness if illegal activities take place on our property.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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