An Open Letter to the Men and Women in the Military and to the Citizens of Berkeley

By Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds
Tuesday February 05, 2008

(Posted on Feb. 5, at 11:45 a.m.)—On several occasions since the war began in 2003, the Berkeley City Council has publicly and passionately stated its opposition to the war in Iraq. On January 29, 2008, the Berkeley City Council approved a series of recommendations intended to impede the recruiting activities of the downtown Berkeley Marine Corps office, which for many people in Berkeley has become a symbol of that war. 

Specifically, the recommendation to inform the Marine Corps recruiting office that they are not welcome in our city, was insulting, hurtful and wrong. We failed to make it clear that while we continue to oppose what we consider an unethical and illegal war in Iraq, at the same time we respect and honor all the brave men and women who are serving, or have served, in the military.  

In our passionate opposition to this war, and in our horror and frustration over the thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands Iraqis who have died in it, we have erred by not adequately differentiating between the war and the warriors. It is understandable that the unnecessarily inflammatory language included in the Council_s action offended and insulted many Marines and their families. We apologize to all those in the military and their families, who took personal offense. This was not our intention. 

In a completely separate action, the Berkeley City Council granted fee waivers for permits to an organization actively protesting the Marine Corps office. To grant a privilege to one group while actively seeking to eliminate the legal presence of another is discriminatory and contrary to our long-standing support of free speech. In retrospect, the City Council should have considered the impact such an action would have on the rights of free speech and expression for all citizens. These rights must be paramount and must be preserved and protected for all of us. 

If Berkeley is truly to remain the home of free speech, then our priority should be to preserve it for all citizens, so that personal and governmental decisions can be made through informed debate. 


Berkeley Councilmember Betty Olds, District 6 

Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, District 5