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More on Los Angeles South Central Farmers Being Evicted, Tree Sitter Daryl Hannah Jailed

LOS ANGELES, California - A three year struggle of South Central Los Angeles farmers to save their gardens came to a climax Tuesday morning as Los Angeles police, firefighters and about 65 sheriffs deputies raided the contested farm land, arresting 45 people. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other city officials negotiated with landowner Ralph Horowitz for hours even as law enforcement officials removed protesters from the property.

The farm, covering 14 blocks, was one of the largest urban community gardens in the United States.

Bulldozers cut a 30 foot wide lane through farmer's plots to get to a large walnut tree where more than 30 people were chained together in lockboxes bolted to steel drums filled with concrete.

Celebrities Daryl Hannah and John Quigley were among the 45 arrested. They were sitting high in the tree and had to be removed by a Fire Department ladder truck.

Hundreds of farm supporters arrived on the scene, but were prevented from entering the farm by Los Angeles police in riot gear. Unable to gain access, protesters sat down in the street blocking traffic on a major avenue for hours until police cleared the street. Bulldozers uprooted the gardens late into the evening; some farmers wept on seeing their plots destroyed.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon the mayor said Horowitz turned down $16 million, an offer that met the asking price for the land. Talks broke down because Horowitz wanted the farmers evicted, the mayor said.

Horowitz said he had been paying more than $25,000 a month to maintain the property that the farmers were utilizing for free. He was offended, he said, by what he claimed were anti-Semitic remarks directed at him.

The land, located on an industrial corridor in an economically depressed area of the city, was seized from Horowitz in 1986 after the city used eminent domain in an attempt to build an incinerator at the site.

Community activists turned back the incinerator plan, and residents began to use the land for garden plots where families could grow their own food.

Horowitz successfully sued to get the land back. Three years ago, he paid $5 million to reacquire the property, but the farmers refused to leave.

The farmers' cause won the support of folk singer Joan Baez, actor Martin Sheen, and tree-sitting celebrity Julia Butterfly Hill.

On June 6, Hill wrote, "From my vantage point in the walnut tree not only do I see luscious green life growing amongst the concrete. I also see beauty, hope, possibility and a vision for the world that inspires me beyond belief. It is growing from every plot, from every heart, and from every person I see coming to this place."

As the bulldozers turned the gardens back into the soil, the farmers' spokesman Tezozomoc said, "Let's not mourn but continue to fight for its life and the livelihood of the South Central Farmers! Over 50 arrests have been made, a few demonstrators have suffered blows from batons and the bulldozers were sent in to demolish the blooming crops, indigenous plants and 14 years of love that have been put into the farm. We are continuing to stand strong with tears in our eyes."