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Council to Reconsider Anti-Marine Stance

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 08, 2008

If the Berkeley City Council approves an item on Tuesday’s agenda, it will clarify city support for the troops—while continuing to condemn the war—and will rescind the section of the Jan. 29 council item that calls the downtown Marine Recruiting Center “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” that has provoked the ire of conservative bloggers and pundits. 

The council item and proposed revisions have sparked response on the right and the left, with pro-war Move America Forward planning a day-long demonstration Feb. 12 outside the Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way) and Code Pink calling a 24-hour peace-in at the same place, beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 11. The Rev. Fred Phelps will bring his virulent anti-gay message to the mix as well, demonstrating against both the Marines and Code Pink. 

Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds are sponsoring the revised resolution. Capitelli told the Planet that while he opposes the war, he wants it understood that the council action does not imply non-support for the troops. 

“My position is that policy makers send those people into harm’s way,” he said. “I want to get them sent home.” 

In a joint press statement, Capitelli and Olds say: “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 … We have erred by not adequately differentiating between the war and the warriors.” 

As for telling the Marine recruiters they are not welcome, Capitelli said if the recruiters opt to stay, despite the legal demonstrations outside their office, that’s up to them.  

However, Capitelli and Olds say in the press statement: “The recommendation to inform the Marine Corps recruiting office that they are not welcome in our city, was insulting, hurtful and wrong.”  

“I wish we wouldn’t have Marines anywhere,” Capitelli said. “But they have a legal right to be here.”  

Olds agreed. “They do have a right to come,” she told the Planet, adding that service personnel should not be condemned: “They have to do what they are told to do.” 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who, along with Olds, voted against the three-part council item Jan. 29, told the Planet, “Laurie and Betty’s item is a step in the right direction.” 

He said he’d like to see the entire council item rescinded, along with an apology to the Marine Corps. The item has “pretty inflammatory stuff,” he said. “People are letting their opposition to the war interfere with their good judgment.” 

If the Olds-Capitelli council item passes Tuesday, the other two parts of the item will remain intact: asking the city attorney to research whether Berkeley’s anti-discrimination laws apply to the Marine Recruiting Center and supporting “residents and organizations such as Code Pink that may volunteer to impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office located in the city of Berkeley.”  

Wozniak wrote in an e-mail response to a person who criticized the council for its item critiquing the Marines and granting a weekly afternoon parking space for demonstrators: “I would note that I was the sole councilmember who opposed both anti-Marine resolutions. I apologize for the action of the remainder of the council. As Christ said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”  

Councilmember Dona Spring told the Planet that she agreed in part with Capitelli and Olds: “We could have been more diplomatic, politely asking them to leave,” Spring said.  

However, Spring said a clear statement ought to be made: U.S. policy of war “is the antithesis of life and liberty. We need to take a strong stand against this military regime that provokes violence, murder and torture. We need to reflect Berkeley values.” 

On Jan. 29, Capitelli, councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Dona Spring, Darryl Moore and Mayor Tom Bates voted for the three-part item. Councilmember Kriss Worthington opposed the section that called the Marines “unwelcome intruders” and supported the other two parts of the item. Councilmembers Olds and Wozniak opposed the full item. 


The House gets involved 

On the national front, Rep. John Campbell, R-California, and five other House Republicans introduced the Semper Fi Act of 2008 Wednesday to rescind about $2 million in federal funds for Berkeley contained in the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill in retaliation for what they said was the city’s “disdain” of the Marines and lack of appreciation “for what they do and have done for this country, our democracy and our freedoms.” 

The act transfers the funds to the Marines. Cosponsors are Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Florida, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas. 

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, is introducing similar legislation in the Senate. 

In response, Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents the Berkeley area, said in an e-mail to the Planet: “As for any attempt to punish the people of Berkeley by stripping much needed federal funding, I would simply say I will strongly oppose such an effort.”  

The proposed legislation says “the City Council of Berkeley voted to oust (sic) the Marine Corps Recruiting Station from their downtown office.” It actually directed the city manager to write a letter telling the recruiters that they were unwelcome. 

It further states that the “City Council of Berkeley also voted to give the radical protest group Code Pink a parking space to protest the Marine Corps and urged them to ‘impede, passively or actively’ the work of Marine Corps recruiters.” 

The funds targeted by the proposed legislation include $243,000 for the Chez Panisse Foundation’s organic school lunch program and $975,000 for UC Berkeley’s Matsui Center for Politics and Public Services. 


And Tuesday 

The pro-war group Move America Forward is planning a day in Berkeley aimed at maximizing media coverage, beginning at 5 a.m. 

“If you can, please join us for our ‘picketing’ of the City Council Chambers. We will be out there at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way beginning at 5 a.m. for the morning news. We will have a presence all throughout the day—the next newscasts are at 12:00 noon, so we’ll want a good size [sic] presence at that time as well,” says the Move America Forward website. 

The group plans to deliver petitions to the council at its 7 p.m. meeting, which say, in part: “We, the undersigned, do register our complete outrage with the city of Berkeley for the recent resolutions that criticized our Marines, as part of an effort to harass the Marine Recruiting Center and chase all vestiges of the United States military outside of the city of Berkeley, California.” 

Not to be outdone, the anti-war group Code Pink is calling for a 24-hour “peace-in,” beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Maudelle Shirek Building and continuing until the start of the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 12. 

“We want to support our elected officials who have taken a courageous stand,” said Zanne Joi, spokesperson for Code Pink. “We’re protecting our city from outside pro-war forces.” 

Joining the protests will be Rev. Fred Phelps’ group “God Hates Fags.” Responding to an e-mail query asking why they would be protesting, Shirley L Phelps-Roper responded: “We are picketing at Berkeley because you are a cesspool of filth! .... You freaks are going to kick the brutish Marines to the curb because they are not filthy enough for you. It is not enough for them to be raping, murdering, fag infested perverts. You want them to be ONLY fags and ONLY raping/murdering perverts. You want them to violate the lame and wimpy executive order that is called Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and aggressively recruit fags into their numbers.” 

The Berkeley Police Department “is putting together a thoughtful plan so all participants will be able to express themselves lawfully and peacefully,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, police spokesperson.