Early Monday morning, around 100 University of California police raided a five-acre patch of land owned by UC Berkeley and used occasionally for agricultural research. The raid came three weeks after roughly 200 activists, community members, and students took over a small patch of the land, known as the "Gill Tract," located in the small city of Albany, just north of Berkeley. The group cleared out piles of wild mustard, tilled the soil, planted 15,000 donated seedlings, and set up camp. When the university ordered them to leave, they kept farming. The university responded by cutting off water access, setting up barricades, and then filing a lawsuit against 14 people. On Monday, nine protesters were arrested and part of the farm was bulldozed.
The land in question has a long and convoluted history. The university purchased the Gill Tract from the Gill Family in 1928 to use for its agricultural research. Since then, it has parceled out and sold more than 90 percent of the original 104 acres. The movement to turn the Gill Tract into a center for sustainable urban agriculture dates back more than 15 years.