The farmers and activists who have been occupying the Gill Tract — a 10-acre piece of land on the outskirts of Berkeley, Calif. — since Earth Day, had a rude awakening Monday morning. As the Oakland Tribune reported, around 100 police officers clad in riot gear and brandishing batons appeared at the farm at 6:15 a.m. and made nine arrests. The officers, the report continues:
… encountered fewer than 10 protesters on the field, most of whom were still sleeping. By 9 a.m., the remaining encampment was cleared.
All except a young man who is sitting in a tree near the tract and refuses to come down.
Of the nine arrested, two were detained for sleeping overnight on the actual tract and seven were arrested outside the fence line on suspicion of unlawful assembly.
As I wrote on Thursday, the University of California has been pushing to see the farmers removed since last week.
The university’s press office released a statement before the arrests began. It reads: “We deeply regret that the occupiers’ actions and continued insistence on free and unfettered access to what is an open-air laboratory left us no choice but to take this step.”
The farmers broke their camp down on Saturday as the university insisted, but several of them stayed on the Gill Tract over the weekend, asking for a public dialogue with UC Berkeley.
So while this mornings arrests aren’t surprising, they still seem draconian, especially considering the fact that most of the folks arrested were not on the property at the time. (See raw footage of the arrests here.)
Occupy the Farm organizer Anya Kamanskaya told CBS San Francisco: “There are literally seven people on the sidewalk not doing anything and they’re telling us it’s an unlawful assembly.”
If you’re a plant nerd like me, you’re probably wondering: What will happen to the crops? Well, let’s just say the photos of bulldozers that have been appearing recently in the #OccupyTheFarm Twitter feed aren’t exactly comforting.