Organized by KSFO radio personality Melanie Morgan, chair of Move America Forward, pro-war, anti-Islamic and anti-immigration demonstrators converged on the Berkeley Recruiting Center today (Wednesday), caravanning into town with their SUVs and Harleys decked out in American flags to face off with Code Pink, the anti-war group that has held vigils in front of the 64 Shattuck Square Recruitment Office for three weeks.
The mostly female demonstrators from Code Pink and their allies—Sing for Peace, the World Can’t Wait, Berkeley High students, the Ecumenical Peace Institute—mustered around 125 demonstrators, but their message spoken into hand-held bull horns was sometimes drowned out by the pro-war side’s superior sound system; the 250 or so mostly male counter-demonstrators clearly outnumbered Code Pink’s participants.
The pro-war counter-demonstrators came from as far as Santa Rosa and as close as the UC Berkeley campus; they represented groups including the American Legion, the Gathering of Eagles, Eagles Up and the UC Berkeley College Republicans.
When the pro-war side sang God Bless America, the anti-war people sang, “God Save America.” The pro-warriors called the protesters “commies” and the pro-peace folks called the counter-demonstrators “killers.”
As the crowd grew and the rhetoric of the two sides escalated, Berkeley Police separated the pro and counter war demonstrators, with the pro-war side, which held permits, allowed to remain on the west side of the street in front of the recruiting office and the anti-war side, which held no permits, guided across the street.
One young man, who did not want to be identified, was yelling “Code Pink traitors,” along with a group of counterdemonstrators. Asked what he meant, he told the Planet that it’s “because Code Pink is against what our country’s trying to do—to get freedom for people.”
Nearby Dan Baptista also supported the war. “We left in the first Gulf War without finishing the job,” he said. “If we don’t finish it, we’ll have to go back again in 10 years.”
Judy Christopher of Code Pink had brought her baby to the demonstration. “As a mother, I don’t want my son to grow up to kill people,” she said.
As the demonstration wound down, Code Pink organizer Zanne Joi said she thought it had been a success. “We’ve shut down the recruiting office,” she said.
On Thursday, the noontime demonstration at the recruiting center will be hosted by the Middle East Children’s Alliance.