Police arrest 9 "Occupy the Farm" protesters at Berkeley

Reuters News
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Posted: May 15, 2012 3:23 AM
Police arrest 9 "Occupy the Farm" protesters at Berkeley

By Emmett Berg

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three weeks after anti-poverty activists took over 2 acres of land belonging to the University of California at Berkeley and planted a vegetable garden for the needy, police in riot gear on Monday raided the site and arrested nine people.

UC Berkeley officials said the garden would be left intact and would be tended to by university staff.

A group calling itself Occupy the Farm, an offshoot of the anti-Wall Street activists who launched last fall's Occupy Wall Street movement protesting corporate greed and bank bailouts, started the unauthorized garden on April 22.

Campus police said 25 to 100 people had maintained a round-the-clock presence at the site since then, until police moved in on Monday and ordered them to leave.

Two of the activists were arrested for trespassing and seven others for unlawful assembly, said campus police Lieutenant Eric Tejada, but there was no violence or injuries.

According to its website, the Occupy the Farm garden was intended to grow food "to meet the needs of local communities" on vacant land belonging to UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources. The soil on the site was tilled by the activists and planted with some 1,500 saplings, they said.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the garden's presence had prevented a corn research project from proceeding as planned. He said, the garden would be maintained by the university as part of an effort to boost urban agriculture in the area.

"The problem here is there was no coordination," he said.

In a videotaped response to the eviction posted on YouTube, a man identifying himself as Ashoka Finley vowed to continue working on the garden clandestinely.

"What I believe in is food justice," he said. "That's why I am here, and that's why I'll continue to be here, planting crops, seeding crops and harvesting crops, and sharing them with our community."

(Editing by Steve Gorman)