University of California at Berkeley police are moving in on the Gill Tract this morning to enforce the removal of protesters who have occupied the university-owned piece of land in Albany in recent weeks, university officials said.
Two protesters were arrested and several more left the parcel of land near Marin and San Pablo avenues voluntarily a short time after 6:15 a.m., when UCPD officers moved onto the field and issued a dispersal order, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
Arriving officers encountered less than 10 Occupy the Farm protesters on the field, most who were still sleeping.
He said police gave the protesters "ample warning and notice that if they left voluntarily, they would not be arrested."
Two women who had slept in the Gill Tract overnight had been arrested as of 6:30 a.m., Mogulof said.
One protester, Anya Kamanskaya, said there were roughly 50 police officers in riot gear standing outside of the parcel of land just before 7 a.m.
"There are literally seven people on the sidewalk not doing anything and they're telling us it's an unlawful assembly," she said.
Mogulof said the university had hoped to avoid making arrests or a dispersal order but felt the action was necessary to regain full control over the property after weeks of failed negotiations with protesters.
"We think it's very unfortunate, we try to avoid this sort of conclusion," Mogulof said. He said members of Occupy the Farm, protesters who have been occupying the Gill Tract since Earth Day in the name of urban agriculture, either rejected or ignored the university's proposals to compromise.
"The purpose of today's action is to ensure our faculty and students can conduct the research projects to which they have devoted much of their academic and professional lives," a prepared statement from university officials read. "Over the course of the last three weeks we have consistently stated that the field must be prepared for research crops by the middle of May, and we simply cannot wait any longer lest our faculty and students lose a full year of work."
The protesters have been planting vegetables at the site over the past three weeks and have demanded that the land be used for sustainable agriculture.