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Permaculture Seedballs seized by Sacramento Police at dawn raid.

author: Daniel Youngberg from Indymedia

SACRAMENTO--This morning, June 21 2003 at around 7:00 a.m., Sacramento police officers paid a visit to the WTO mobiization Welcome Center and seized over100 permaculture seed-balls. Activists from around the country have been gathering in Sacramento and meeting at the Welcome Center in preparation for protests against a June 23-25 U.S. Department of Agriculture tradeshow intended to convince WTO member countries to accept new guidelines regarding biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Mobilization organizers and indymedia reporters were on the spot within moments of the police's arrival. Organizers spoke with the police and the reporters documented the interchange with video and still cameras. More officers came during the visit, totalling at least four unmarked vehicles [pictured above] and eight officers.

The police claimed that the seedballs were illegal under statute 12.48.090, which is "Possession of prohibited weapons during a parade or demonstration". The fact that the seedballs were sitting idly at the edge of the parking lot, drying in the sun, rather than being part of a "parade or demonstration" was an irrelevant distinction to the police, who noted that protests are planned soon in Sacramento. Activists had made the seedballs the day before during a permaculture workshop. Each one contains soil, some straw, and seeds. When left on the ground, the seedballs are supposed to break down and sprout. Seedballs have been used in urban areas to bring flowers and food to areas in need of more green or sustenance. These particular balls contain heirloom seeds for growing clover and mustard, among other things.

In an act of irony apparently unappreciated by them, the officers loaded all the seedballs into boxes labeled "bean bag rounds" and "red pepperball" [pictured above], which of course are weapons used by police during parades and demonstrations. This was a physical manifestation of the mindset created by the police psychological training; that is, by putting the seedballs into weapon boxes, the officers were mirroring the worldview that sees clumps of dirt and puts them in a _mental_ box identifying them as dangerous. Sad and funny, and a reminder that our imprisonment always starts between our own ears.

An indymedia reporter pointed out to supervising officer J. Parker that the permaculture session the day before had been videotaped, and that it would be easy to show the District Attorney that the balls contained nothing harmful. The reporter then suggested that the police might hence want to avoid the embarrasment of bringing such an obviously frivolous charge to him or her. Parker appeared slightly thoughtful, and a few minutes later seemed willing to return the seedballs, though that didn't end up happening.

While the interchange was going on, a property-owning neighbor came over and gave the police a piece of her mind. She told them that the activists could plant the seedballs "all up and down this block", of which she owns a big chunk. We were all impressed by her fire and strength, bless her heart!

The situation ended with the officers saying that the "owner" of the seedballs (not that you "own" a seedball) could retrieve them later. No one was charged with a citation or arrested.


"Although I go before you, please comrades, maintain firm in the struggle."

- Lee Kyung Hae

This is the last written message from the Korean farm leader, who stabbed himself and died after climbing to the top of a police barricade in Cancun Mexico on September 10, 2003 with a sign that read "WTO Kills Farmers," part of a mass demonstration against the World Trade Organization


Contact | Photo Credits | 2003-2007 Urban Permaculture Guild
a project of ADPSR (Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Repsonsibility)