UC Invites Gill Tract Protesters to Meeting, Cites Saturday Deadline For ‘Unilateral Steps’

The Gill Tract (Mina Kim/KQED)

UC Berkeley has issued another statement on the occupation of Gill Tract in Albany. Looks like the university has given the Occupy the Farm folks a deadline of Saturday at 10:00am to dismantle their camp. If not, the university says it will take “unilateral steps necessary to protect the academic freedom of our faculty to pursue their interests without interference.”

The university is also offering the group “two seats at the table” to participate in a meeting about the future of the tract, five acres of university-owned land that is used for agricultural research but which the Occupiers want to utilize for urban farming and education. The group took over the land on Apr 22.

From the university’s statement, signed by George Breslauer Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and John Wilton, Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance:

On Saturday morning the dean of our College of Natural Resources, Keith Gilless, will lead a planning meeting that will tackle the details of how the Gill Tract will be shared by our researchers and urban agriculture, and how the effort will be supported, coordinated and sustained under the university’s supervision. The meeting and its agenda were developed in collaboration with the City of Albany, and participants will include appointed city officials, members of the Albany community identified by the city manager’s office, residents of University Village and UC Berkeley faculty members and students.

We are also reserving two seats at the table for representatives of the group that is still occupying our property. They have claimed that they do not want to interfere with our research and seek only to support urban agriculture. If that’s the case, we are hard-pressed to understand why the occupation needs to continue, given the fact that we are now moving forward with plans to have a portion of the land used for urban agriculture. In order to take their seat at the table, all they need to do by Saturday at 10:00am is pack up the encampment, leave our property and join a discussion that will advance one of their key goals.

If they leave peacefully and do not attempt to re-occupy University property, we will also cease to pursue criminal prosecution and/or civil litigation against the occupiers. If, however, they elect to continue preventing us from regaining complete control and supervision of our property, planning for shared use will continue in their absence. And, if they refuse to depart, we will also take the unilateral steps necessary to protect the academic freedom of our faculty to pursue their interests without interference. The research work must begin in a very few days and our commitment to act in its support is firm and non-negotiable.

The university also offered a grudging complement to the occupiers…

As much as we abhor the tactics embraced by the occupiers, we acknowledge that their actions helped to raise the public profile of urban agriculture and generate constructive conversation about its value. Our College of Natural Resources was, prior to the occupation, already in an advanced stage of planning for an expanded urban agriculture program and the discussion has sharpened the college’s focus on getting the program underway. So, we urge the occupiers to take ”yes” for an answer, leave our property, allow the research to commence and have a seat at the table. We are moving on and can only hope they will quickly decide to choose collaboration over confrontation.

Yesterday, UC Berkeley blocked anyone from entering the area, one of a series of steps meant to turn up the heat on the protesters. The university barricaded all of the entrances except for one in the morning, and filed suit against 14 of the Occupiers in the afternoon.

This tightening noose, however, has yet to deter the protesters. From a post on the Occupy the Farm web site yesterday:

We continue to receive overwhelming support from residents and community members. Gourmet pizzas, ice cream, wild mushroom quesadillas, and of course hundreds of gallons of donated water for our crops – we couldn’t do this without you. We’re resting up for a full day’s work, and hope to see all of you again tomorrow.

Lastly, to address the very real threat of violence by the University of California Police Department, the kind citizens of Albany and the East Bay at large have drafted this petition. If you object to the use of firearms, tear gas, pepper spray, and/or any other crowd control agents by the University of California Police Department within the city limits of Albany, California including UC Village, Oceanview Elementary School and the Gill Tract, please sign it. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Farmland is for farming.

Much love,

The Farmers

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.

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