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UC Castigates Occupiers in New Statement

UC Berkeley officials on Wednesday chastised the urban-farm activists from Occupy the Farm for an "illegal and misguided occupation" of a UC-owned lot next to University Village over the weekend.

Occupy the Farm activists occupied a UC Berkeley lot next to University Village in Albany and began planting crops on May 11, 2013. Photo Credit: Charles Burress
Occupy the Farm activists occupied a UC Berkeley lot next to University Village in Albany and began planting crops on May 11, 2013. Photo Credit: Charles Burress
UC Berkeley officials issued a statement Wednesday rebuking the Occupy the Farm activists who occupied a UC-owned lot in Albany over the weekend before they were evicted with four arrest on Monday morning.

The two sides have been in conflict over future use of undeveloped university property adjoining the University Village graduate student family housing complex. 

Occupy the Farm, which supports urban farming, last year staged a three-week occupation of an adjoining UC field used by university-affiliated researchers for crop research. They were eventually evicted by UC authorities.

Nearly 100 members of the group and supporters returned to a different lot on Saturday and began planting crop seedlings. They were evicted early Monday morning.

Occupy sees the lot they took over Saturday, located at the northwest corner of San Pablo Avenue and Monroe Street, as agricultural farmland that should be used for growing food. The university has designated it as the future home of a Sprouts Farmers Market, part of a UC plan for commercial development that has been approved by the Albany City Council.

Part of the conflict centers on the prior use of the property.

UC's statement Wednesday – from George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and John Wilton, Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance – sought to refute the Occupy group's contention that the land is farmland.

"It is clear that they are also unwilling to acknowledge that the area they claim to be fertile farm land has not, in fact, been farmed in more than 70 years," the statement said. "As many of you know, the property is the site of former WWII-era worker barracks and student housing."

Occupy representative Lesley Haddock, a UC Berkeley junior, said the lot is part of a larger piece of land that was a nursery and was purchased from the Gill family in 1928 by a land-grant university whose property belongs to the public trust.

“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,” Haddock said in a statement.

The UC statement from Breslauer and Wilton also thanked some Albany officials and residents who came out Saturday and Monday in opposition to the Occupy activists.

"We would like to thank Mayor Thomsen and Albany City Council Member Michael Barnes, along with the Albany residents who were present on Saturday and throughout the weekend to oppose the illegal and misguided occupation and to show support for the senior housing and grocery store proposal," the statement said.

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