Monday, June 3, 2013

People Take Over SF Urban Farm in Solidarity With Turkish Uprising

Over 80 people marched on Saturday in solidarity with the ongoing struggle in Turkey against gentrification and against police brutality that has lead to massive riots to the Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco that recently has been evicted to make way for condos. Below is a report from their first day. We have reports that people are still on the land. We wish them all the best of luck!
June 1, 2013 is the first day of a land liberation action in San Francisco at Laguna and Fell Streets.

We marched to the land in solidarity with the struggle currently underway in Turkey. After attempting to save a park in Istanbul – one of the last green spaces in their city – the citizens were subject to brutal repression at the hands of the out of control Prime Minister and his army of unrestrained police. This repression has metastisized what was always a larger movement brewing in Turkey. Their struggle is ours.

Liberate the Land has now planted the land known for the last five years as 'Hayes Valley Farm' with hundreds of starts that, when grown, will feed the community. The group is building a village on-site to maintain the edible landscape and organic garden. We have re-named the land Gezi Gardens in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Turkey and wherever capital threatens the last of our urban green space.

We linked the Taksim solidarity march and land occupation together, showing the intentions of a global movement and helping to spread the news of the brutalization of Turkish citizens. Our fight is theirs because development, no matter where, is strictly in the name of capital, and in that sense, is rife with innocent victims, in the pursuit of profit. In the end, we don't simply want to garden, we want massive systemic change, and are attempting to show ways in which these changes can begin.

The land is slated to become a housing development, a 185-unit condominium, displacing the gardens, the trees, the community, and the huge potential this beautifully maintained soil has to feed others for free.

"As a citizen, I have the freedom of being able to ask what's better for the community, this farm or more developments?" says Morgan Fitzgibbons, head of the neighborhood sustainability group the Wigg Party and farm volunteer. "The farm is an anchor of a burgeoning sustainability movement, and after seeing all the good it can do, are we still going to go in there and build? I think the issue is bigger than one city block." We plan to hold the space indefinitely and create a center for urban sustainability and permaculture.

See the architectural plans Build Inc. and Pyatok Architects have hatched to replace this permaculture haven here:

See past photos of Hayes Valley Farm here:
The displacement of Hayes Valley Farm, Esperanza Gardens, and The Free Farm in order to further develop will not go unchallenged. A network arises to plant this land located on Laguna and Fell and build a new eco-village. We will maintain the edible landscape and community space. Condominiums are rampant, but urban gardens that can sustain low income families are far too scarce.

Liberate the Land invites everyone to join this network in the days following today's liberation, to plant food, create and promote permaculture, host and attend workshops, teach and take classes, play and enjoy music, build, gather, experiment, play, learn, and be together.  A vibrant community of plants and people are living on this land as of this first of June rather than the first layers of concrete foundation for condominiums.  We invite our neighbors in Hayes Valley to join us in open dialogue to further decide what Gezi Gardens will become.

Liberate the Land is bringing into dialogue the concept of common space, a classification of space that goes outside of the dichotomy of private and public and instead places itself as the commons. The commons exist as the spaces owned and operated neither by governments and states, nor corporations and private individuals. Instead, the commons are owned, or stewarded, by all people, with an understanding that the gifts of the earth are for all to enjoy and that people need land bases for growing food, harvesting medicinal plans, maintaining healthy forests for building materials and firewood, wildcrafting plants for fabrics, and hosting wildlife habitat.

Hayes Valley Farm has hosted enormous amounts of edible plants, as well as wildlife habitat over the past five years, where before its creation was asphalt, a freeway on ramp, and a camp of people without homes. Now, birds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife have inhabited the space, as well as gardeners, neighbors, students, and permaculture enthusiasts.

So now, the city having sold the land that sustains these gardens to a developer, the people of San Francisco are looking at losing another recreational and open green space to a housing unit. At first, we may consider the need for more housing in San Francisco, until we look at some of the latest US Census Bureau statistics that state there are currently 36,000 empty housing units in the city alone. There are only estimated to be 6 to 10,000 homeless people. This means we can house every person without a home in SF somewhere between 3 and 6 times over. Liberate the Land claimed in the dialogue and discussion hosted at The Free Farm, another farm slated to become a housing unit, that if housing was the issue we are best to look at these 36,000 empty units, retrofit them and move people into them, especially families who have been displaced due to the foreclosure crisis.

In solidarity with those who criticize the
foreclosure crisis and the large corporate banks' role in the displacement of people and the abandonment of viable homes, we will celebrate the solutions offered by the local, organic food movement and urban farms and gardens. The Free Farm, a community farm and permaculture garden that rose in the ashes of a burnt out church at Gough and Eddy Streets, grows thousands of pounds of food that it gives away for free. Every Sunday, the Free Farm Stand sets up at Parque Ninos Unidos in the Mission district. Canopies, tables, and a full spread of free food are on offer. Hundreds of people line up to receive organic produce, fruit, breads, pastas, greens, pastries, and more. The majority of the organic vegetables and greens, in addition to smaller amounts of fruit and other produce is grown right here in San Francisco at The Free Farm and Esperanza Gardens, both slated to become condominiums within the year.

Separately from the Liberate the Land group taking direct action, another network has formed to approach the situation on the legal grounds. With a petition to "Preserve Hayes Valley Farm," and a proposal to "transition ownership from private to the collective common property," this network is asking the city to buy back the land from the developer and maintain it as open space.

We support a diversity of methods to resist the ongoing development of the last viable green spaces in every city across the Earth.

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