Updated: UC Berkeley Says It Will Seek 'Other Remedies' For Farm Protest--Prof. Altieri to Continue Planting on Site Along with Protesters

By Jeff Shuttleworth
Wednesday May 09, 2012 - 12:15:00 AM

University of California at Berkeley officials said yesterday that they will "pursue other remedies" to cope with protesters who have occupied a 10-acre plot of university-owned agricultural land in Albany for 17 days.

However, university spokesman Dan Mogulof declined to specify what actions the university might take against the protesters.

Late last night,according to a release from Occupy the Farm, UC Berkeley Professor Miguel Altieri, who has been a researcher on the Gill Tract for 31 years, will plant his crops tomorrow, demonstrating that research can exist alongside the Farm. He announced his plan at a university community forum, organized by the Gill Tract Farmers Collective, on the UC Berkeley campus Tuesday evening.  

University officials sent a proposal to the protesters late last week to engage in a dialogue to try to resolve the standoff at the site, which is known as the Gill Tract and is located near the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues. The protest began on April 22, which is Earth Day. 

Protesters, who call their action "Occupy the Farm," issued a response to the university's proposal Monday night. 

But UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor John Wilton said in a statement today that "we received with disappointment and dismay the occupiers' response." 

Breslauer and Wilton said, "We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives." 

The two officials said, "There also is a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group's demands and statements about what they are 'willing' to do for our researchers." 

Protesters have planted vegetables at the site and say they are occupying the land because they want it to be preserved for sustainable agriculture. 

They allege that UC plans to replace the current agricultural land with commercial, recreational and open space. 

But university officials say 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. 

They say the parcel of land slated to be developed is to the south of the Gill Tract, at Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue. That land hasn't been farmed since World War II, according to the university. 

Earlier today, Occupy the Farm spokeswoman Anya Kamanskaya said UC police officers came by the site early today to warn protesters that they are trespassing on university property, but she said that isn't unusual because police have been issuing such notices since the protest began. 

She said activists "are committed to farming the land here" and have no plans to leave.  

The protesters said in their proposal that they will leave the site only if certain conditions are met, such as having municipal water made available to irrigate its crops and making sure that the community have access to the field to tend to the crops that have been planted. 

The protesters also want the university to stop using pesticides and other chemicals at the site.