“Felonious Farming. Malicious…” …mulching?
A Red Bull after the fact does not bring back the great detail you should have been writing in your forgotten notebook. That was a partially remembered quote from Dan Siegel (pictured above), attorney for Occupy The Farm defendants. He was mocking the heavy handed tactic by the UC Regents of filing an injunction against activists involved with Occupy The Farm.
When I arrived at Alameda Superior Court in Hayward, CA just before the 9:30am hearing, the line to the courthouse was very long, but I only recognized the documentary film-maker who is doing a film on the activist farmers. Figured he and I were late, but once inside I learned that court, much like most Occupy protests, can have a late start.
The courtroom was a little over half full when I got there, but once many of the farmers and supporters showed it filled to almost capacity. You could see the farmers joy increase as the courtroom filled. They passed around signs that said “We Dig The Farm” which, until their eviction, could be seen around the Gill Tract and in neighborhood windows etc. The bailiff admonished those in the courtroom to not raise their signs during the proceeding.
After sitting through another case, the proceedings began with a 5-10 minute discussion on whether or not to allow the previously mentioned documentary film-maker to film inside the courtroom. Dan Siegel presented the idea to Judge David Hunter, and the lawyers for the UC Regents balked. They didn’t seem to have any argument against the filming, but simply took issue with the fact that they weren’t aware of this ahead of time to ask their clients if they minded. Judge Hunter talked through the idea at length and (after throwing a jab at the NBC news crew who got their sound bites and left before the proceedings even started) decided he would allow the filming to take place. The provision being that nothing which is filmed in the courtroom could be used until UC lawyers could confer with their clients on the matter.
[Insert another hilarious quote here that I can’t fully remember from Judge Hunter playfully talking about how nobody was prepared for cameras - “I’m not wearing my make-up…” - I promise to remember my notebook next time]
The arguments on both sides were long, and my memory is obviously short, so I’ll summarize the major points made by both sides:
The UC Regents want an injunction against the defendants from Occupy The Farm because they ‘fear’ that the possibility of a simple trespassing charge isn’t enough to deter the activists from re-occupying the Gill Tract. They argued that due to previous conduct and quotes in the press (such as “Their fences can’t stop us, and their arrests can’t stop us”) that the injunction is necessary to add more of a deterrent by way of a larger consequence - a contempt of court charge.
Dan Siegel argued that the UC Regents have not met their burden of evidence that this strong of an action is warranted. He challenged them to prove how any ‘irreparable harm’ would be done. This is where he inserted the great, half-forgotten quote: “Felonious Farming…Malicious…” …. it’s gotta be mulching. Basically, he argued that it’s not exactly HARM that would come to the Gill Tract should these farmers trespass there again, so the injunction is heavy handed and unnecessary.
At one point Judge Hunter grilled the UC Regent’s attorneys over some language in the proposed injunction. It included those ‘acting in concert with’ or ‘aiding and abetting’ the defendants. He took issue with the lack of specificity in these statements. Does this include people raising money for the farmers? Does it include people bringing food or water to the farmers? Does it include someone writing a supportive article regarding the farmers? He grilled them for a while, but made sure to point out that just because he was discussing the details of the injunction, doesn’t mean he’s necessarily signing off on it. He, and Dan Siegel, wanted to make sure that any possible injunction wouldn’t prohibit people from activities which are perfectly legal and Constitutionally protected.
After more point-counterpoint on the above issues, Judge Hunter thanked the attorneys for their arguments.
Since, thankfully, one is able to use recording devices in the HALLWAY of a courthouse, I was able to record Dan Siegel’s press statements afterwards (a few of which can be found at my YouTube channel —> For A Bit More Context ). I’ll leave you with this quote - When asked if he thought the UC Regent lawyers came prepared this morning, Dan Siegel replied:
“I don’t think they were prepared for our arguments”
For my live-tweets and photographs from this and other events:
I will update as more information presents itself.
UPDATE - 6/20/12 - “Siegel The Regent Slayer”
The UC Regents have dropped the lawsuit against the ‘Occupy The Farm’ defendants, rendering moot any possible injunction.
Also, 40 rows planted by the activist farmers on the Gill Tract are still being watered by UCB. I wonder who will be running the farm stand on San Pablo?