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Rally Launches Petition to Limit Military Recruiters

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 01, 2008

At a rally that attracted some 50 supporters outside the Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday, the Regulating Military Recruiting Coalition launched a drive to collect 5,000 signatures for a ballot initiative aimed at regulating where public and private military recruiters can locate offices in Berkeley. 

The measure would amend Berkeley’s zoning ordinance, requiring military recruiters to obtain a use permit that would mandate a public hearing if they want to locate within 600 feet of a residential neighborhood, hospital, school or park, according to attorney Sharon Adams, who wrote the initiative.  

“The military serves the civilian population. As civilians we have the right to regulate the military. We have the duty to regulate the military,” Adams said, addressing the rally. 

Library Trustee Ying Lee, former councilmember and former aide to Congressmembers Ron Dellums and Barbara Lee, pointed to the military recruiting office at 64 Shattuck Square: “This office is asking people to go to war to kill, be killed or injured. How do they get these young people?”  

By lying, she said. “We are sick of the lies. They are fighting an illegal war in our name.”  

Lee, peace activist PhoeBe Sorgen and former City Councilmember Carole Kennerly are the signatories proposing the initiative. 

Calling the initiative “a legal tool to level the playing field through the public hearing and public comment process,“ Kennerly said mandating public input means “we can shine a light on the ridiculous notion that the military is a great opportunity for the poor and youth of color. The truth is that military recruiters exploit the lack of other options for underprivileged young people, in a phenomenon, which is called a ‘poverty draft.’  

“The unfair burden of this illegal and unpopular invasion of Iraq is carried disproportionately by youth of color and poor youth,” she said.  

Recruiters inside the center referred the Planet for comment on the initiative to a public information spokesperson. Last week, Marine recruiting spokesperson Major Wes Hayes told the Planet by e-mail that the military follows local zoning ordinances. 

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan told the Planet that federal and state government entities are not required to follow local zoning laws, but may opt to do so.  

Organizations endorsing the initiative include: CodePink Women for Peace Bay Area, Grandmothers for Peace, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, World Can’t Wait, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against War, Berkeley Greens, Courage to Resist, Watada Defense Committee, National Lawyers Guild Bay Area, Berkeley Gray Panthers and more. 

For information on the initiative go to or call 524-2776. 


Photograph by Judith Scherr. 

Former Councilmember Carole Kennerly speaks outside the Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square in a rally kicking off an initiative to make future military recruiter offices go through a zoning process that will include public comment. Also pictured are Library Trustee Ying Lee (left), peace activist PhoeBe Sorgen (behind), attorney Sharon Adams (center right) and Zanne Joi of Code Pink.