It has been a few decades but the University of California at Berkeley has a group of protesters occupying a parcel of land….again. About 200 people moved on to a parcel of ag research land known as Gill Tract on April 22nd, Earth Day, and set up camp. The university had planned to sell some of the land for development the protesters want the land to be used as an urban farm center for research and training for the growing urban farm population in the San Francisco area. The occupants have set up tents, planted vegetables and have been holding workshops on urban farming on about half of the ten-acre parcel.
The university says the land needs to be cleared by June 1 so researchers can get it ready for planting. No arrests have been made however police have repeatedly reminded the occupiers they are trespassing. Water to the plot has been shut off and access has been limited.
The occupiers say they want guarantees that the university will turn the water to the tract back on, allow them continued access to the crops they have planted and that the university will not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the soil in the plot. The university says it could share the land this season and will discuss an urban farming program but only after the protesters leave the property.
U.C. Berkeley was a flashpoint in 1969 when the university purchased a piece of property with plans to build a dorm. The “People’s Park” became the site of a confrontation between 30,000 occupying students and 2,000 National Guard soldiers called in by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.