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New: UC Berkeley Offers to Talk With Protesters--After They Leave the Gill Tract

By Sara Gaiser (BCN)
Sunday May 06, 2012 - 09:28:00 AM

University of California at Berkeley officials gave protestors occupying a tract of university-owned land in Albany until midnight last night to agree to leave voluntarily.  

University representatives met with members of the Occupy the Farm group Thursday evening to discuss an end to the protest on the property known as the Gill Tract, but did not reach an agreement, according to a statement issued Friday by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancelor John Wilton. 

UC officials offered to commit to a discussion of continuing "urban farming" on the tract if the group voluntarily ended its occupation, according to the statement. However, the group members said they needed to take the proposal back to the rest of the group and that it would need to be supported by 100 percent of the group to win approval. 

In a letter from legal counsel sent on Friday, university officials asked protestors to respond to their proposal by tonight. As of around 9:30 p.m., however, there had been no word of a response, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.  

"We hope to get a response, we hope to avoid conflict," Mogulof said. "We will just wait and see at this point."  

The protest has disrupted faculty and student agricultural research conducted on the 10-acre property, and the College of Natural Resources needs to regain access to the land by mid-May in order to allow work to continue, the statement from Breslauer and Wilton said. 

If protestors choose to reject the university's offer, "we have every intention of honoring our commitment to ensure the research activities are not impeded and the rule of law is maintained," the statement concludes. 

Calls to members of Occupy the Farm last night had not been returned at press time. 

Occupy the Farm took over the Gill Tract, located at Marin and San Pablo avenues in Albany, on April 22. The land is primarily used for agricultural research, but group members have said they believe the university plans to convert it to commercial, recreational and open space uses.  

The group has been planting vegetables at the site, and says it wants to preserve the land for sustainable agriculture. 

Breslauer and Wilton have said in a letter to the community that the existing agricultural fields will continue to be used as an open-air laboratory by the students and faculty of the College of Natural Resources for agricultural research.  

The parcel of land where development is being proposed is to the south of the Gill Tract, at the intersection of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue. That land hasn't been farmed since World War II, according to the university.