ALBANY -- About 50 Occupy the Farm activists returned to a piece of land Monday evening to replant vegetables plowed under earlier in the day after UC Berkeley police arrested four protesters.

At the same time, a group of Albany residents opposed to the Occupy group brought a contingent of their own to the parcel along San Pablo Avenue.

"We want a grocery store here," said Sylvia Paull, one of the anti-Occupy protesters. "We spent five years working with UC and Albany trying to get one here."

The Occupy group said it would return next weekend to tend to the most recent crop it planted Monday evening.

"We're not giving up on this land," said Occupy spokeswoman and UC Berkeley student Lesley Haddock. "It's one of the best pieces of farmland in the East Bay and UC wants to make it a corporate development. We don't want development."

Early Monday morning, police rousted some 20 Occupy the Farm activists from their tents at giving them 10 minutes to leave the university-owned property at Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue known as the Gill Tract.

At around 9 a.m., the university plowed under the vegetable starts activists had planted Saturday and Sunday.

Police arrested four protesters, according to UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada. The first, Ian Saxton, was arrested around 5 a.m. Erik Eisenberg was arrested at about 9:20 a.m. as he stood on the tractor University of California police had brought in, and Brooke Marino and David Grefrath were also arrested after 9 a.m.


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Marino was arrested on suspicion of trespassing, and the other three on suspicion of trespassing and interfering with an officer.

The four were expected to spend the night in the Berkeley city jail and be arraigned Tuesday.

On Saturday, more than 100 activists chanting "Whose farm? Our farm" had marched one block south from Albany City Hall to the site they say should be preserved as agricultural land. The university intends to develop the parcel as a grocery store.

Activists cleared weeds, rototilled the plot and began planting seedlings. About two dozen people camped there Saturday and Sunday nights.

Before the eviction, they had planned to pack up their tents but continue to plant and care for the crops, Haddock said.

University spokeswoman Claire Holmes was on site before dawn Monday. "We don't want this to continue," she said. "They are trespassing on the property. We've had a five-year engagement process with the community. The city of Albany has been very clear -- they don't want Occupy the Farm here."

Haddock called plowing under the plants a "terrible waste." She said the land should be used as an urban farm and center for teaching urban ecology.

"We're here to get this land preserved. We see it as an amazing resource," Occupy the Farm spokesman Matthew McHale said Saturday. "We want to use it as an educational resource. We envision it as a place to grow food. We want to create a local food system."

He added that Sprouts Farmers Market -- the Arizona-based natural foods grocery chain that plans to develop the site -- will compete with locally owned businesses.

"We're here to make a statement that an urban farm is a much better use of that prime soil than paving it over," Haddock said Monday.

The area in question, roughly 12 acres, is partially used by the university for agricultural research. Activists occupied part of this area for three weeks last year. Police made arrests and ended the overnight occupation of the land on May 14 last year.

The area to the south on which activists had planted and set up tents had previously contained World War II-era housing.

"This land that they're on right now has not been farmed in 70 years," UC spokeswoman Holmes said Saturday.

With the development of a grocery store at the site, Albany stands to gain an estimated $200,000 annually from property tax, according to Albany Mayor Peggy Thomsen. Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Thomsen said the protesters had created public safety issues.

"I ask people to use the democratic process -- come to our meetings and be heard," she said.