UC initiates legal action against Gill Tract occupiers

On May 9  the UC Berkeley administration released the following statement concerning the Gill Tract:

Today the University of California commenced legal action against 14 individuals alleged to have participated in the illegal occupation of the university’s Gill Tract property. This lawsuit represents an additional step that the university is taking to regain control of its property so that it can be used for agricultural research and education. At the same time, the occupiers still have the opportunity to accept a proposal that would allow for a peaceful end to the illegal encampment, resumption of research activities and the continuation of urban farming on portions of the land that will not be utilized by faculty and students.

Related information on the Gill Tract occupation

Campus blocks vehicle access to Gill Tract, responds to demands  (May 9 update and text of UC proposal to “Occupy the Farm”)

Copy of lawsuit  (PDF)

The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court today, alleges that the defendants, along with other unknown individuals who are sued as “Does,” conspired to cut locks, enter the property illegally and establish an illegal encampment. It alleges that the defendants continue to trespass on the property, despite repeated warnings from the UC Police Department that their presence is illegal. The suit alleges that the defendants’ illegal occupation is preventing research and educational activities on the property and that “if defendants do not leave the property immediately, the growing season will be lost,” resulting in substantial harm to researchers, students and the university. The suit requests a court order requiring the defendants to leave the property.

The university is also seeking an award of monetary damages for costs it has or will incur as a result of the trespass and for the rental value of the land during the occupation. The university also seeks payment by the defendants of its attorney’s fees under a state law that allows it to recover fees in a lawsuit involving “trespassing on lands . . . under cultivation.”

This legal action is not the only step that the university is prepared to take to protect the rights of its researchers and students, but it is one part of our efforts to end this illegal occupation. Among other things, it is a means to ensure that the trespassers — rather than the university, students and taxpayers — will bear the substantial expenses resulting from unlawful acts.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here (PDF).