Police Block Entrances at Occupy the Farm, Issue Warning That Chemical Agents May Be Used

The Gill Tract (Mina Kim/KQED)
Some activity this morning at UC Berkeley’s Gill Tract in Albany, where a group called Occupy the Farm has been squatting on the five-acre parcel of land for a couple of weeks. The group says the tract, which is used for agricultural research, is underused, and they want to use it for urban farming and education, provide food for those in need, and prevent the land from being developed.

The university has been negotiating with the group but wants them to leave. This morning, a heightened police presence and mention of the potential use of chemical agents by police had people on edge. KQED’s Caitlin Esch reports from the scene:

This morning at around 6:30 a.m., occupiers who were sleeping in tents were wakened by a dispersal notice telling them they had to clear out or risk being exposed to chemical agents. They have been told to disperse before, but the notification about chemical agents is new. Police have barricaded all of the entrances except for one with concrete blocks, so that there’s only one way to get in and out, and vehicles can’t come in at all. The place now feels more “militarized,” as one UC Berkeley sophomore told me.

All of that plus a much greater police presence in the morning has people thinking that a raid is coming soon. Not today, but soon.

But for now tension has subsided and things are pretty calm. There are a few dozen people here, some planting tomatoes, others hanging out talking. UC professor Miguel Altieri, a supporter of the group, is here.

I spoke to UC spokesperson Dan Mogulof and his tone was fairly stern. He said a path to a peaceful resolution remained open if people voluntarily left. He said the university is open to having an urban farm on the property, but because of liability issues, there needs to be university oversight, and they don’t want people camping there.

He said researchers from the university need to set up in mid-May.

The Daily Cal also covered today’s events via Twitter. Follow their reporting below. Click on the play button to activate the tweet stream…

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor