[Editor's Note: The University of California released the following statement at 1:35 p.m. on Wednesday. It appears below as it was released. The complaint appears with this story as a PDF. Those named include Gopal Dayaneni, Anya Kamenskaya, Devin Murphy, Stefanie Rawlings, Eric Larsen, David Grefarth, Russell Bates, Alejandra Cano, Vaden Dabney, Erik Eisenberg, Marika Iyer, Nathan Pitts, Gabrielle Silverman and "DOES 1 through 150." Charges against two people originally named in the lawsuit, Francisco Stierle and Elizabeth Fairweather, were dismissed in May. See all the Gill Tract stories on Albany Patch at http://patch.com/bvbHo.]
Today the University of California commenced legal action against fourteen 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.
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. (There are no current UC Berkeley, students among the named defendants.) [Editor's Note, May 11: After we posted this, it came to our attention that defendant Devin Murphy is a current University of California, Berkeley student.]
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 that the University, students and taxpayers--will bear the substantial expenses resulting from unlawful acts.
Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.
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