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California | East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Environment & Forest Defense | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Police State and Prisons
Police Raid Volunteer Farm, arrest 4, & illegally abuse UC Berkeley student
Summary: On Monday, university police raided the all-volunteer farm at the Gill Tract. Four people were arrested. One of them was Brooke Marino, a geography student from UC Berkeley, who was standing on a public sidewalk outside the property. As seen in the vdieo footage, Marino was being nonviolent. Police, however, put her in a "pain compliance hold" and carried her by her neck across the street. Civil Rights attorney Dan Siegel witnessed this, and says the police broke the law by bypassing the judicial system to inflict punishment upon the young farm-enthusiast without a trial.
Last Saturday, a group of gardeners entered a stretch of university-owned farmland in Albany, California. They began to plant vegetables in an unused portion of the space.
This farmland is known as The Gill Tract. It was sold to the university under the auspices that it would be used for agricultural research for public benefit.
It is the last arable farmland in the East Bay.
For the last decade, however, the Gill Tract has been primarily used to develop inedible GMO crops that have been patented and sold to private interests. Large swathes of the land that weren't being used for this research were going unused, despite proposals by ecologist professors to turn it into a community garden.
In recent years, a popular movement has sprung up to localize the food supply, fueled by the urgent need to end the CO2 emissions caused by shipping food over long distances.
Last week, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere climbed above 400 parts per million, surpassing the "safe zone" set by 350.org. This a near- guarantee of a 90-foot climb in sea level within the next 100 years, meaning Shattuck Ave will be beachfront property within our lifetimes.
This urgent need to reduce the CO2 emissions caused by food shipping, coupled with the desire for a local perma-culture farm, led hundreds of people to climb the fences of the Gill Tract last year and plant an acre of unused space with organic vegetables.
These vegetables were harvested in late summer of 2012.
Last year, these gardeners worked to remediate the soil, while also staying committed to distributing the crops for free at the local farmer's market, and also taking free vegetables to underprivileged areas like the Fruitvale Neighborhood in Oakland.
The need for a "People's Farm"--distributing healthy food to everyone in the region regardless of class, eliminating C02 emissions caused by food shipping--has never been more urgent.
Because of inequities in our system of valuing labor and property, poor people are frequently forced to buy less healthy food that is shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away, contributing to global warming and food-related health problems.
So, on Saturday, May 11th, 2013, hundreds of people showed up at the Gill Tract for a second year of "Farming for the People."
They gave their labor freely, the only payment being free food brought by "Food Not Bombs," a freegan food club that uses dumpster-dived goodies to make cuisine which they give away for free, demonstrating the bounty of good things that are wasted because of our current profit-based food system.
As the land was tilled on Saturday, police officers from the university came and warned farmers that they were trespassing.
Several farmers approached the police officers, and explained the "dire need" to have local free vegetables, as well as the need to tend the soil of the Gill Tract, which has been eroding under the university's poor management.
The police left and the farming continued.
Many folks brought tents and camped out on the land. One person explained they would be "camping until the initial tilling gets done," so to prevent folks from having to make gas-guzzling commutes to the farm everyday.
Two days later, on the morning of Monday, May 13th, university police raided the Gill Tract, and brought a large bulldozer to remove the vegetables.
Three of the farmers refused to leave the land, and attempted to use their bodies to stop the machine from damaging the vegetables.
These people were David Grefrath, Ian Saxon, and Eric "Air" Eisenberg.
The three of them were promptly arrested and the the vegetables were razed while farmers and supporters watched from the sidewalk.
In a frightening turn of events, after these arrests, police targeted a UC Berkeley student who was peacefully watching from the sidewalk.
Her name is Brooke Marino, and she is a senior in geography and a beloved member of her neighborhood community in South Berkeley.
Police grabbed Marina by the neck and dragged her across the street, behind some van were "we couldn't see what they were doing to her!" one of her friends later explained.
The police assault of Brooke Marino illustrates a common tactic that police use to terrorize people in poor and underprivileged neighborhoods. This tactic involves targeting a beloved member of the community and committing public demonstrations of physical violence against this person.
Growing up in the projects, I was forced to witness this type of extra-judicial force all the time.
It is completely illegal to bypass the courts and inflict punishment.
When I was a kid growing up in the projects, all of us were too scared to speak up about this stuff. We didn't understand our rights, and didn't realize that police officers were breaking the law in their treatment of us.
Now I am a graduate student and have received a college education thanks to the cheap tuition and public grants that were still available to send poor kids through college in the late-90s.
I now know that what the police did to me and my community as a child was illegal, and now I am seeing the same patterns all over again with these student protesters.
This is wrong. And it is not only wrong, but illegal. And it is time to have a conversation about it.
By publicly inflicting pain and humiliation upon Brooke Marino, the police are attempting to by pass our legal system and terrorize civilians into obedience.
This country was founded on an act of civil disobedience, and has a rich tradition of civil disobedience being used to break ground for new advancements in law and culture.
The laws are set up to protect people who are attempting to improve their communities through tactics such as civil disobedience, and they are also set up to prevent the police from creating a culture governed by fear, instead of by laws.
Don't get me wrong: I consider myself an anarchist, and believe that there should be localized direct democracy rather than centralized state authoritarianism.
However, I realize that my dream of a bioregional worker's utopia is rather far off, and may never come to pass.
In the meantime, I want the law to be upheld.
We have a system of laws and courts for a reason: to protect us from inflated state power which can occur if corrupt people began to take charge.
A group of university police officers should not be able to suspend the law at their whim.
When police overstep their bounds and take punishment into their own hands, we no longer have a legal system, but simply a collection of thugs terrorizing the populace.
I lot of people think that it is okay for the police to do this because they have been doing it in this area for years. Terrorizing student activists, murdering protesters during the People's Park riots, and engaging in personal vendettas with members of the Black Panthers, such as murdering Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton shortly after he received his PhD from UC Santa Cruz.
This level of corruption and police terrorism has become a fixture in the Bay, among activist and poor communities alike.
But just because we've gotten used to it doesn't make it legal.
It is time to stop this shit.
These are our constitutional rights we're talking about, and they can't be suspended at whim, just because the regents (or whoever is paying an officer) doesn't like our politics.
Currently, the UC regents are using the UC police as their own private security, and have directed police to repeatedly break the law.
Dan Siegel and Tony Serra, two prominent local civil rights attorneys, are currently engaged in legal battles with the UC regarding the police breaking our laws in order to torture, harass, and terrorize students who are attempting to speak out against the encroachment of private interests upon the publicly-funded campuses.
This isn't just about what happened to Brooke on Monday, or the students at UC Davis who were pepper sprayed 2 Novembers ago, or the UC students who have been physically assaulted while protesting regents meetings, or the 2009 mass arrest & public torture of students protesting privatization in Wheeler Hall.
This is a question of whether we are a country run by laws or run by brutes.
And it is time to put the brutes in check, not just in student communities, but everywhere.
Whether or not you believe that the farmers were committing a crime, all of us should hope that they are granted a fair trial without the police use of extra judicial force--otherwise the legal system is a joke, and we can all just give up on this "democracy project" and go home.
But police illegal force isn't the only factor at play in all this:
Brooke Marino, the young lady who was dragged across the street in a choke hold, is a senior in the geography department at UC Berkeley.
She is paying a lot of tuition to be there, and yet she is being denied access to an *unused* part of that university farm land. For years, professors have been trying to reclaim that land for student-learning, but that right has been denied to them.
This is a piece of publicly owned land that has been denied to everyone except private interests.
It is time to have a serious community discussion about university privatization.
But it is becoming all too clear that our public education system has been hijacked by private interests.
The Regents have ignored feedback from students and teachers throughout this process. And, in a terrifying escalation, the Regents are now using a militarized police force to intimidate students, teachers, and members of the public who are attempting to restore the public university to its original mission (i.e., serving the public).
On Wednesday morning, as I write this, I am eagerly waiting to hear whether the 3 farmers have been released.
Because on top of all the other horrible things that have happened within the law few days--as if police brutality and suspension of judicial law isn't enough!--the DA has essentially suspended California state law, and 3 of the 4 farmers are being held indefinitely.
In California, if someone is arrested, charges must be stated within 48 hours of that arrest at a public hearing, otherwise the arrestee is free to go and all charges are dropped.
In order to meet the requirements of this law within the courts' hours of operation, the 3 farmers would have needed to be arraigned by 4:30 PM yesterday.
A lot of folks showed up at the Wiley Manuel courthouse in Oakland for the scheduled arraignment. Many of them were just hoping to see their friends to see if they were okay.
However, only one of the farmers was arraigned: Eric "Air" Eisenberg.
He came out and the judge read the list of charges against him.
Defending himself, Eric explained to the judge that he was not guilty, and the judge gave Eric a "Stay Away order" from the Gill Tract, meaning Air is not allowed to enter that land for the rest of this growing season.
Eric repeated that he is not guilty, but he told the judge that he would respect the order and stay away from the farmland.
The other 3 farmers, however, were not arraigned. This is a big problem.
California State Law requires that anyone who is arrested be arraigned within 48 hours of their trial. In order to meet this law within the court operation hours, the 3 farmers should have been arraigned by 4:30pm Tuesday afternoon.
But the DA claimed that she still needed to file the charges against them, and stalled their arraignment.
However, they cannot be legally arraigned after 4:30 pm yesterday anyway, meaning they should have been released and sent home around 5:00pm.
The DA, however, claiming her desire to (illegally) arraign them *after* the 48 hour window, had the 3 of them sent to Santa Rita prison.
Santa Rita is notorious for human rights abuses against all inmates, including protesters.
Last year, in the wake of the mass arrest that occurred during the "Move-In Day" on January 28th, 2012, hundreds of human rights violations were reported at Santa Rita, leading to a direct order from the governor to release all protesters.
During that time, folks being held at Santa Rita were denied their HIV medication, locked in rooms without food or toilets for up to 23 hours, were subject to physical abuse, and multiple witnesses reported watching a young Occupy activist beaten until he was unconscious for merely asking the prison guard for food.
When it was accounted that Brooke, David, and Ian would be taken to Santa Rita for the night, a wave of fear swept through the courtroom.
Now it is Wednesday. There has been no word yet on whether they've been released.
They are being detained indefinitely without an arraignment.
California State Law has been suspended by the UC police, as well as by the DA.
This cannot happen anymore.
If a bunch of thugs and corporate stooges can just suspend state law whenever they don't like someone's politics, then we may as well quit the democracy project and all go home.
I apologize if I sound a bit emotional about this. But the law really matters to me.
Sure, I am an anarchist, which means I wish to someday live in a decentralized & local direct democracy.
However, in the meantime, I want to at least have the laws and protections that the state claims to provide.
When those laws and protections are suspended, I become extremely alarmed.
The state is very big and I am very small, and there needs to be appropriate balances to keep state power in check, so that all citizens can feel protected from the possibility of corrupt individuals hijacking state power for private gain.
Clearly, this is exactly what has happened.
Also, I know Brooke Marino personally: she is my neighbor.
And so is David Grefarth, he lives close to me as well.
This spring, we've spent a bit of time together, helping each other with our gardens. We chat about tomatoes, mint varieties, and soil remediation.
Just a few days ago, Brooke gave me and my partner some hops plants for our backyard, and she was eagerly talking about how excited she was to be a student of the world, to be learning all the time. She was talking about how she looks forward to finishing her geography major at the UC, so she can begin her post-academic journey of charting her own path in her learning.
People like that make me feel excited to be alive.
I've also spoken to David Grefarth a few times. A few weeks ago, we had a great conversation about the need for a culture centered around ecology and environmental care, as delineated in the book "Deep Ecology" by Derrick Jensen.
The other day, I told David about my plan to remove some invasive blackberries from my backyard, and he pointed out the way I was needlessly treating the blackberries as an "enemy."
"Every plant is special," David said. Then he gave me a pot of blue daisies, which I planted in my garden after removing the blackberries.
While writing this article, I went outside to water my garden.
And there were the blue daisies from David.
And the hops from Brooke.
I wanted to see both of them at yesterday's arraignment.
They are my neighbors and I wanted to make see, with my own eyes, that they are okay.
And then the law was suspended and they were not arraigned. They are being held indefinitely at Santa Rita at this point.
I hope they are okay.
video footage of Brooke Marino's arrest:
I would like to encourage anyone with corrections to the information in this article/essay to please post it in the comment thread. I am in a huge rush to get out the door, and I don't have time to make edits or double-check some of my facts.
I'm pretty damn sure about most of the info in here, but errors happen sometimes.
Anyway, yes, please add your corrections to th comment thread, and when I get back, I will add them to the article.
I wish I could make getting information to you my top priority, but I have to go work my day job now.
But I've done the very most I could within my time constraints.
With Love & Hope,