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Protesters Chain Selves To Recruit Center Doors

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 05, 2008

The World Can’t Wait ratcheted up the protests at the downtown Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center Friday, when three demonstrators dressed in orange jump suits to symbolize the garb worn by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay chained themselves to the recruiting center doors at 64 Shattuck Square.  

Despite assurances by Lt. David Reece that police would be stationed across the street only to keep the demonstrators safe, a large group of police—“a wall of cops in riot formation,” according to Stephanie Tang of the World Can’t Wait—cut the chains and arrested the three demonstrators at around 2:30 p.m.  

“They said they had a request from the Marine Corps to move us,” Tang told the Planet on Monday.  

Lt. Andrew Greenwood confirmed that “they were arrested at the request of a person at the Marine Recruiting Center.”  

The trio was cited with infractions on charges of interfering with or obstructing a business operator. Two were cited and released and a third, with an outstanding traffic warrant, was held for a couple of hours and released, Tang said. 

“They were arrested without incident,” Greenwood told the Planet Monday. 

By 9:30 a.m., Mary Ann, Alex and Lou, all who declined to give their last names, had been chained to the door of the Marine Recruiting office for about two hours. 

Describing their protest as “civil resistance,” Mary Ann told the Planet the recruiting center “represents the immoral acts of this president—the Iraq war, wire tapping, torture, and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids.”  

Two Berkeley police officers came by the gathering that had drawn about 15 people by 9:30 a.m. and told the group that they would station a police officer across the street for the demonstrators’ protection. Lt. David Reece said the city supports the demonstrators, but he wanted assurance that there would be no vandalism at the office. 

That was the last exchange with police before the arrests, Tang said. 

Meanwhile, Fox news, the right wing blogosphere and conservative U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, have been having a field day responding to the city’s support for the protests.  

“This is a slap in the face to all brave service men and women and their families,” DeMint wrote on his congressional website. “The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on, they should do it with their own money.” 

DeMint says that he’ll be introducing legislation to cut Berkeley off from federal funds and reroute the money to the Marine Corps. 

At its meeting last week, the council passed two different resolutions. One (approved 8-1) allows demonstrators a weekly four-hour parking spot for six months in front of the Marine recruiting office where they can demonstrate. (Councilmember Gordon Wozniak voted in opposition.) 

A second, tri-part resolution supports the protesters’ acting to “impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office,” and asks city staff to investigate enforcing Berkeley laws “prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to military recruiting offices in Berkeley.” The military prohibits open homosexuals from joining its ranks. (This passed 7-2, with Wozniak and Councilmember Betty Olds in opposition.) 

The resolution also advised the Marines that their recruiting office “is not welcome in our city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” (This part of the resolution passed 6-3 with Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Wozniak and Olds in opposition.) 

Virulent responses to the resolution included a letter sent to the City Council by Scott McDaniel of Marietta, Ga., that said: “Regarding the Marine recruiting station in Berkeley … let me tell you, you sniveling pieces of shit, I could just vomit. Preferably in your filthy little Socialist mouths.” 

In an attempt to counter the strident voices, Mayor Tom Bates, a retired Army captain, sent out a press release Friday, saying: “Let me be absolutely clear that this is not about the men and women who are serving our country in our armed forces … However, this community strongly opposes the war in Iraq and the foreign policy of the current administration.” 

The statement goes on to say that the protesters have been exercising their free speech rights. “Pro-war protesters have also attended to exercise their free speech rights,” he wrote. 

The statement continued: “On Jan. 28, the Berkeley City Council took action to waive the permit fee for anti-war protestors one afternoon a week. Any group, whether pro- or anti-war, can obtain such a permit.  

“In addition, the City Council indicated its desire for the Marine recruiting station, as a visible symbol of the war, to be relocated … I hope that our country will end the war in Iraq soon and bring our troops home safely.” 

Pro-war group Move America Forward, calling the city’s actions “treasonous,” is planning to present a petition to the council Feb. 12, supporting Berkeley’s Marine Recruiting Center. The World Can’t Wait is calling for a large anti-war demonstration at the recruiting center on Feb. 15.