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Mayor responsible for talking up boycott

Elliot Cohen Berkeley
Thursday November 01, 2001

The Daily Planet received a copy of this letter sent to the mayor and council: 

The loss of thousands of jobs in the dot com industry, a national recession, and high California electric prices were bad enough, so when tragedy struck this September 11th, it didn’t take a genius to figure out the economy would suffer.  

Whether or not a boycott in response to the Council’s resolution on Afghanistan would have been a significant factor, or would even have materialized, is an open question, but one thing is certain: by publicizing the threat of a boycott with inflammatory rhetoric, press conferences and appearances on national TV, the Mayor has guaranteed businesses will suffer more losses then would otherwise have been the case.  

Seeking publicity that can do nothing but hurt Berkeley means the mayor is either foolish or making a deliberate decision. As someone who has watched council business for years I can assure you that the mayor is not a fool. She has every right to publicly disagree, if she wants to, with a resolution that calls upon the United States to end the bombing “as soon as possible.” We can differ, respectfully, without grandstanding. 

But going to the media and talking up a boycott of Berkeley based on a political calculation that she can convince retailers to blame political opponents for what is likely to be a slow Christmas season should not be tolerated. FOR SHAME: seeking to exploit the grief and anger we feel over the tragic deaths of 5,000 people for cheap political gain. It is deplorable, it is indecent, and it crosses the line. 

Perhaps the mayor’s political calculation is correct, and people angered at the loss of business will blame their plight on those who supported the anti-war resolutions, but it seems obvious to me that the mayor of any city should be urging people to support its economy, rather than publicizing calls for a boycott of this fine city.  

The mayor owes us all an apology. She owes an apology to local merchants, who will lose income because of her efforts to publicize the idea of a boycott. But most of all, she owes an apology to the nation and to those who loved and cared for the 5,000 people who lost their lives, whose memory she has exploited by taking a cheap shot to achieve crass political gains.  


Elliot Cohen