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Council Action Fallout: Protests and Revisions

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 12, 2008

Since voting Jan. 29 to support protests at the downtown Marine Recruiting Center and asking staff to write a letter telling the Marines they are “unwelcome intruders,” the Berkeley City Council has been skewered on-line and in print, excoriated in thousands of e-mails, and threatened by Republicans in Congress and state legislature with the loss of government funds.  

While several of the Jan. 29 council actions related to the Marine Recruiting Center have apparently been misconstrued, as evidenced in on-line and print publications, the council item in which lawmakers ask staff to write the Marines, telling them they are uninvited and unwelcome in Berkeley, was clearly understood. It enraged more than a few people and may be scrapped. 

In an item before the council tonight (Tuesday), councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds propose retracting “inflammatory” language telling the Marines they are unwelcome, underscoring support for the troops and restating council opposition to the war. 

Much of today’s action related to the year-old Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square, however, will precede the council meeting, with dueling pro-troop and pro-peace groups out in force. 

The pro-military group Move America Forward has called on its troops to be outside the Council Chambers at 5 a.m. to make their pitch to early-morning news crews. MAF spearheaded e-mail campaigns and petition drives berating the council and denouncing its actions.  

“Society for years has endured the freakish antics of Berkeley dwellers. Naked people streaking in the streets; smelly hippies begging for money as they sing drunken renditions of '60s anti-war songs; adults sitting in trees like a bad zoo exhibit,” says Melanie Morgan, radio talk host on KSFO and MAF chair, writing Feb. 8 on  

“But the Berkeley City Council and instigators from the extreme left have crossed the line this time,” she writes, calling “anti-American” the council’s “anti-military resolutions.” 

Not to be outdone, Code Pink and its anti-war allies began a 24-hour peace vigil outside the Council Chambers at 7 p.m. last night. 

In its call to people to attend the vigil, Code Pink states: “This struggle is not about the Marines: It’s about the occupation of Iraq. It’s about recruiting our youth to be those occupying forces in Iraq. It’s about the 1.2 million dead Iraqis, the 3,950 dead U.S. soldiers, the trillions of dollars of our taxpayer money. It’s about respecting the right of the people of Berkeley to say no to war!”  


Clarifying council actions 

Precisely what the two Jan. 29 council items actually said, who supported what and the question of a citizens’ ballot initiative restricting the location of future military recruiting stations has become muddled. 

The parking space issue is perhaps the one most misunderstood. 

What actually happened was that, in an 8-1 vote Jan. 29, with Councilmember Gordon Wozniak voting in opposition, the council designated one parking space for Code Pink demonstrations in front of the Marine Recruiting Center on Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. for six months and granted the group a sound permit for which the council waived the $36 fee. 

At the Jan. 29 meeting, Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan described the action as according a mundane Street Event Permit. “Anyone can ask for a Street Event Permit,” Cowan said.  

“Any group, whether pro- or anti- war, can obtain such a permit,” writes Mayor Tom Bates in a statement published on his city website.  

Catherine Moy, MAF executive director, quoted Feb. 2 on the MAF website, blasted the council: “We are looking at all options to stop Berkeley from issuing gifts of public funds, such as free parking spaces, and violating the constitution,” she said.  

And, promising to submit a bill to strip Berkeley of state transportation funds (something Mayor Tom Bates called “demagoguery”), Assemblymember Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, said in an audio broadcast posted on his website: “They have granted a private easement, a private right for a parking space right in front of a Marine recruiting station for Code Pink with the express purpose to harass and annoy the United States Marine Corps and their recruiting station.” 

Melanie Morgan goes further in her Feb. 8 piece, blasting Councilmember Max Anderson, an ex-Marine, who, with Councilmember Linda Maio, sponsored the parking space council item. “Anderson has pushed the idea of giving special favors to Code Pink, which has done so much to cripple America's efforts to protect herself against radical Islamic jihadists,” she writes. 

And an unsigned San Francisco Chronicle editorial (that gets 16-year Councilmember Betty Olds’ name wrong) asks: “What is the Berkeley City Council doing by … reserving curb space for the convenience of weekly protesters?” 


The three-point measure 

The second item related to the recruiting center and supported by the council Jan. 29 had three distinct parts: The first asked the city attorney to investigate city options for enforcing statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, with respect to the military recruiting office in Berkeley. The measure was aimed at the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting “out” gays and lesbians in the military. The council approved this 7-2, with Olds and Wozniak opposing. 

The second—and most controversial part—directed the city manager to send letters to the local Marine Corps Recruiting Center and to the Marine Corps commander, advising them “that the Marine recruiting office is not welcome in our city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” The council approved this 6-3, with Olds, Wozniak and Councilmember Kriss Worthington opposing. 

Explaining his vote, Worthington said: “It is important that we encourage that part of the peace movement and make sure that we do not villainize people who are forced by economic circumstances to become part of the military. People who are veterans and people who are in the military are not our enemies. It is the stupidity of the people in Washington, D.C., that are causing these illegal activities using our military.” 

The third section “encourage(s) all people to avoid cooperation with the Marine Corps recruiting station, and applaud(s) 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.” This passed 7-2, with Wozniak and Olds opposing. 

What the council actually did, however, may not have been clear to some. For example, Rep. John Campbell, R-Newport Beach, announced his plan to cut federal funds in Berkeley saying: “Last week, the City Council of Berkeley voted to oust the Marine Corps Recruiting Station from their downtown office.”  

Most of the brouhaha was directed at the “unwelcome intruder” language, which the council may scrap tonight. Some writers, while shocked at the language, did not hesitate to respond in kind. 

In a Jan. 30 statement on the MAF website, Morgan called the “socialist” council “ungrateful and despicable people” for their vote and referred to Code Pink as “these beasts,” and “Code Stinkos.”  


Rezoning for recruiters 

A group of citizens that includes members of Code Pink are circulating an initiative to be placed on the November ballot if they get 5,000 valid signatures which says no public or private military recruiting organization can locate in Berkeley within 600 feet of a school, residential neighborhood, park, health facility or library. Before obtaining its permit, the recruiting organization would have to hold a public hearing. 

The initiative will not affect the downtown Marine Recruiting Center. 

In a Feb. 6 article distributed by Creators Syndicate Michelle Malkin says the zoning is a done deal: the council “preceded with zoning changes,” she wrote. 

And Melanie Morgan wrote Feb. 8: “To make matters worse, Code Pink has now kicked off a campaign for an initiative that would restrict recruiting centers in the same way cities contain pornography shops. Comparing our military to pornography peddlers is slanderous and outrageous.” 

Library Trustee Ying Lee, former city councilmember and former aide to Reps. Ron Dellums and Barbara Lee, is one of three sponsors of the rezoning initiative. 

“I just wrapped that interview [with Ying Lee] and I am stunned that leadership in a community that opposes the war believes it can deprive the rest of us from the safety and security offered by the brave men and women willing to sign up,” writes Jamie Colby Feb. 3 on 

The Planet didn’t catch the Colby interview, but recorded Lee, a septuagenarian, at the Jan. 29 council meeting asking the body to continue to support the protesters. 

“There is a close relationship between the military and the deaths of American soldiers and the deaths of up to a million Iraqis,” Lee said. “This is our money that is doing this. I personally feel the responsibility of what our tax monies do. I love working with Code Pink. They are not as ladylike as I like to be, but they are making the point that the Marines, who I cheered during World War II, are not doing an honorable job protecting our safety—they are attacking an innocent country.”