Public Comment

Why Protesters Resisted Marine Recruiters

By Kenneth Thiesen
Tuesday February 12, 2008

The eyes of the world are on Berkeley due to recent actions by courageous demonstrators at the Marine recruiting office and the equally courageous actions of the Berkeley City Council which voted to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Square recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."  

Support for the actions of the Berkeley City Council has grown and other cities are contemplating following the actions of the council. But at the same time, the right-wing talk show hosts have been filling the airwaves with verbal assaults on Berkeley and a number of right-wing Senators are attempting to cut-off federal funding for the city to punish resistance to the federal government’s military machine.  

Some are calling for the City Council to rescind their previous actions. But it is critical that the Council stand by its correct actions and continue to set an example for the rest of the world. Demonstrations against the recruiting station should continue until the Marines pull out of Berkeley altogether. (There will be further actions Feb. 15.) All criminal charges against protestors should also be dropped and Berkeley should not cooperate with their prosecution. 

Protesters from World Can't Wait! Drive out the Bush Regime! were arrested after chaining themselves to the door of the recruiting station and refusing to leave in an act of non-violent civil resistance. Code Pink was also active in the resistance. There is a long tradition of such civil resistance in this area. Berkeley police officers in riot formation blocked and violently cleared the street before arresting the orange jumpsuited protesters. The protestors were in jumpsuits to symbolize the role of the Bush regime in imprisoning and torturing prisoners around the world. 

The Marine recruiting station is an outpost of the U.S. military in Berkeley. Its role is to recruit officers for the Marines. Without such officers, the Bush regime would not be able to launch its aggressive wars throughout the world. 

For this reason it is right and just to demand the recruiting office’s ouster. The Marines are a large component of the U.S. military forces occupying Iraq. And despite the Bush regime claims that it invaded Iraq to bring freedom to the Iraqi people, the Marines are doing what they have always done for U.S. imperialism—killing people. 

Just one example is what happened in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. US marines killed two dozen Iraqi civilians, including 11 women and children in a massacre there. In case readers think this is an aberration, listen to the words of Marine Lieutenant General James N. Mattis, who was in charge of developing Marine war-fighting doctrine and tactics. In answer to a question about fighting insurgents he stated, “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.” “Mad Dog Mattis” led the 1st Marine Division during the initial invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. He also led the initial attack on Fallujah, Iraq in April 2004. 

As far back as1933, Marine Major General Smedley Butler in a speech clarified the role of the Marine Corp. “War is just a racket…It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses…” 

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps…In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism...I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912…I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” 

Today the Marine Corp continues its tradition of acting as gangsters, but now it is serving the Bush regime in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each day in Iraq and Afghanistan it kills people or rounds them up and places them in prisons where torture and death are routine. Thousands of Iraqis and citizens of Afghanistan are rotting in these prisons while millions of others suffer at the hands of the U.S. occupiers. 

The issue of free speech is not being debated in Berkeley. The issue is how far we need to go to stop the death and destruction that the Bush regime carries on daily in our name. The first amendment guarantees that the government will not interfere with free speech. The Marines are a component of the government. The Bush regime’s “free speech” is not in danger. Yes, some of those who may wish to join the Marines are being inconvenienced. I hope so, as the role of the Marines is not in the interest of the people. 

Whatever it takes to stop the Bush regime and drive it from power is justified. I do not mind preventing the recruitment of Marines any more than I would have minded stopping the recruitment of soldiers for the Nazis during World War II. If the Bush wars are immoral, it is moral to do what we can to stop them by acts of civil resistance.  

The City Council should be proud of its actions in opposing the Marine recruiting office and those of us in the Bay Area should support their courage. We should keep up the political opposition until the Marines leave this community. 


Kenneth J. Theisen is a resident of Oakland and is an organizer with The World Can’t Wait! Drive out the Bush regime!