East Bay News

UC Berkeley files suit against Gill Tract occupiers

Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Occupy The Farm members march UC Berkeley files suit against Gill Tract occupiers Occupy the Farm barrier

The standoff between a group called "Occupy the Farm" and UC Berkeley kicked up a notch Wednesday when the university filed a lawsuit against 14 people for illegal occupation of the Gill Tract property, a university-owned piece of land at San Pablo Avenue and Marin Street in Albany.

Occupy The Farm members are still on the land defying legal action, filed by UC Berkeley on Wednesday. They also held a march and rally Wednesday evening starting in Berkeley, then continued farming the university's agriculture research property in Albany.

The 11-page suit filed by the regents of the University of California claims the occupiers cut locks illegally and are establishing an illegal encampment. Eric Larsen is one of 14 named defendants in the suit. The complaint also names 150 unnamed defendants that the suit lists as "John" and "Jane Doe." "Several of the individuals armed with large, sharp garden tools, began to till the soil," Larsen said reading the lawsuit.

This is the latest move by the university to regain control of the property that is slated for educational use and research in only days. "We need to begin our research activities there by the middle of May. We will honor our commitment to our faculty and students. We will honor our commitment to the taxpayers who are funding that research and we will regain control of that property," said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof.

Protesters have occupied the Albany land known as the "Gill Tract" since April 22. The group Occupy the Farm called for the property to be used as an urban farm and they're trying to prevent it from being developed. On Tuesday, UC officials warned the group that they were "running out of time to leave voluntarily." Larsen says he won't give up and if they want to come after him, they know where to find him. "They can find my place of residence by consulting the city council to which I live and have made public comments regularly," he said. UC Berkeley has still been allowing the demonstrators to enter and leave the property as long as they are on foot.

Things initially took a turn Wednesday morning when police started installing barricades around the encampment. Protesters say police woke them up around 6 a.m. and told them they had to leave immediately. They added that if they didn't comply, they would be arrested and if they interfered, chemical agents would be used.

Police say they are following new guidelines and that pepper spray would be a last resort.

The university says it has offered to allow the occupiers to continue farming if they remove their tents, but so far, they have refused.

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albany, occupy cal, occupy wall street, protest, crime, east bay news
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