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‘Occupy The Farm’ Activists Vow Return After Lastest Eviction From Albany Land Tract

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UC Police officers gathered at the entrance of Gill Tract in Albany, May 13, 2013. (CBS)

UC Police officers gathered at the entrance of Gill Tract in Albany, May 13, 2013. (CBS)

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ALBANY (CBS SF) — “Occupy The Farm” plans on returning to the tract of land in Albany owned by the University of California at Berkeley Monday night to discuss the group’s next move after it was removed and thousands of plants that were planted by the group were plowed Monday morning, a group organizer said.

“This space is really important,” organizer Lesley Haddock said. “We’re not going away.”

She said they planned to reconvene at the site at 5 p.m. to talk about what their options are.

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Claire Holmes said they are going to continue to monitor and assess the group’s activities.

“We’ll just have to see,” she said. “Our highest priority is to have a safe environment and to have the least amount of destruction for the people living in the area.”

UC Berkeley police raided the agricultural fields located near the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues at about 4:30 a.m. and removed the campers, Lt. Eric Tejada said.

Once the campers had been cleared out, the university brought in a tractor at about 9:20 a.m. to remove the thousands of plants, Tejada said.

The Occupy activists had been there since Saturday when several dozen people marched to the part of a property they call the Gill Tract to protest the university’s plans to build a chain grocery store there.

The campers planted thousands of plants over about an acre, Haddock said, including kale, squash, and other various vegetables and herbs.

The raid occurred after the activists publicly announced they would leave the site later Monday.

“They’re not true to their word,” Tejada said. “We just wanted to make sure the land was reclaimed for our use, the occupation was over, nothing to come back to water.”

Saturday was the first time the group had taken over the Gill Tract since July 2012 when they were there for less than a day to harvest crops that they allege were being overrun with weeds.

Protesters occupied the land for weeks last April and May before police removed them.

“This university is turning into a private institution and no longer holds my best interest in mind,” Haddock, who is also a UC Berkeley student, said. “It really underscores they’re really acting out of private interest.”

The university has been in talks with the City of Albany for about five years regarding the empty plot of land, she said, and the city felt it was best served as a mixed-used site.

The site of the “Occupy The Farm” encampment would become a grocery store and the adjacent lot would become housing for seniors, she said.

Holmes said the land had not been used as farmland in approximately 70 years and was the former site of World War II barracks.

Four people were arrested, including one who attempted to block the tractor, Tejada said.

All four were arrested for trespassing and three of them were also charged with resisting arrest, he said.

 

(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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