Albany residents protest return of Occupy activists

ALBANY, Calif.

A second group joined the land battle Saturday; ten Albany residents showed up to protest the takeover of this section of the 22 acre Gill Tract by Occupy the Farm.

Occupiers planted a section of the tract just north of us last April and were forced off by U.C. Berkeley, which owns the property. Occupiers were also forced off this section last week. This is the latest battle between U.C. Berkeley and Occupy the Farm.

"You are ordered to leave the property immediately," said U.C. Berkeley Police Lt. Lee Harris. "Failure to do so may result in fines, arrest, and prosecution."

That order, issued every hour, was ignored by Occupy the Farm members. Around 11 a.m. they tore down the police tape and began clearing and planting a section of the Gill Tract.

Lesley Haddock is a UC student and an Occupy the Farm spokesperson

"It is not Albany land, this is University of California land," she said. "And it should be turned into a public farm because that's what serves the best interest of California."

Albany residents who came to protest Occupy's takeover of the property think differently.

An aerial map, supplied by U.C. Berkeley, shows where the Albany City Council has approved the construction of a retail grocery store on one part of the tract, which is bordered by San Pablo Avenue on the east and Monroe Avenue to the south. There's also a proposed senior living site in the area across Monroe Avenue.

"I don't support civil disobedience to try and change that decision," Albany resident Preston Jordan said. "Certainly there are cases that call for civil disobedience when people's lives or rights are on the line. I don't see that is the case with this issue."

Last Saturday, Occupy the Farm marched onto the property to clear and plant the area. Then early Monday morning, university police raided and arrested four occupiers. The charges were trespassing, vandalism, and ignoring police orders.

"I demand to be released immediately, I'm a political prisoner, let me go!" one protester yelled during the Monday night arrest.

The next day, the university bulldozed the planting Occupiers had done. U.C. Berkeley officials and Albany Mayor Peggy Thomsen came to monitor the protesters. UC spokesperson Claire Holmes says they can stay, for now.

"Make that determination when it's the safest possible time and the least disruptive," Holmes said.

We don't know when or if UC police will clear out the Occupiers. This dispute between urban farm proponents and UC has been going on for the past ten years that UC has been trying to develop the property. Albany and UC have gotten most of the approvals to go ahead with the development, but the Occupy the Farm members say they will block those plans.

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