A news helicopter flew over the Gill Tract Wednesday. Photo: Ira Serkes

After sending in police early Wednesday to erect barricades around the Gill Tract, the University of California filed a lawsuit against 14 members of Occupy the Farm.

The university said the legal action was “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.” But the university pointed out that the occupiers could still accept the university’s 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.”

The lawsuit and non-confrontational barricading of Occupy the Farm appears to reflect the university’s new, gentler approach to dealing with protestors. Last week, Berkeley Law Dean Chris Edley and UC Vice President and General Counsel for Legal Affairs Charles Robinson delivered a report conducted after the violent confrontations with Occupy activists last fall. It concluded that the university should back off from the use of force, including batons and pepper spray, in confronting protesters and instead rely on mediators or de-escalation techniques.

The lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court alleges that the defendants conspired to damage the Gill Tract by cutting locks, trespassing, and establishing an illegal encampment. The suit states that the Occupy the Farm’s illegal presence on the property is preventing research and educational programs from proceeding. The suit asks the court to evict the protestors and award unspecified monetary damages.

UC Police came to the Gill Tract in Albany around 6:30 am and erected two concrete barriers across roads leading into the property. While the university said there were no arrests or injuries, the Occupy the Farm protesters said in a statement that “they threatened people with “chemical agents and impact force”, and appeared prepared to bulldoze and destroy the farm.”

After the police left, the protestors started to help Prof. Miguel Altieri plant his research crops.

Supporters of Occupy the Farm have called for a march from the North Berkeley BART station to the Gill Tract at 6:30 pm. They are asking supporters to spend the night to “defend it from any impending police raid.”

Read the lawsuit here.

Cal weighs legal action to evict Occupy the Farm activists [05.08.12]
Farm activists: We will leave camp if Cal meets our concerns [05.08.12]
UC Berkeley sets midnight deadline for Occupy the Farm [05.05.12]
Could UC and Occupy the Farm compromise on Gill Tract? [05.04.12]
UC Berkeley to Occupy the Farm: “Time is running out.” [05.03.12]
Occupy the Farm activists issue open letter to community [04.30.12]
UC Berkeley issues open letter to “clear confusion” on Gill Tract [04.27.12]
UC Berkeley calls for peaceful end to Occupy the Farm [04.23.12]

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...