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Businesses for Peace May Counter Boycott

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday April 01, 2008

Once again the anti-war Code Pink ladies are squaring off with pro-war Eagles Up. This time it’s not dueling demos at the Marine Recruiting Center.  

It’s contradictory calls to go shopping.  

Eagles Up and Move America Forward folk want their allies to shop outside Berkeley until the City Council apologizes to the Marines for its opposition to military recruitment in Berkeley. 

Not to be outdone by the (mostly) leather-clad, Harley-riding Eagles Up crowd that has held demonstrations in Berkeley three times, Code Pink is promoting Berkeley businesses under the moniker “Businesses for Peace.”  

The organization’s kickoff is noon on Thursday at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way, and so far it has 30 local tax-paying businesses signed up. 

“We support the city of Berkeley’s mandate to ‘seek to resolve international disputes through collective international diplomacy and without war’ and we are proud to be part of an association of businesses committed to promoting a more peaceful world,” says a statement on the website There’s no membership fee.  


What boycott? 

While Eagles Up has put out a call to boycott the city, some doubt its effectiveness. 

“This boycott’s got no legs,” Councilmember Dona Spring told the Daily Planet last week. 

Spring pointed to the Lafayette War Veterans, which cancelled a charity golf tournament in Tilden Park slated for September. 

“Tilden’s not even in Berkeley,” said Spring. It’s located in the East Bay Regional Parks, which has its own governing structure. Concessions in Tilden Park, on Berkeley’s eastern border, pay no taxes to the city. 

“People doing this boycott don’t spend their money here,” said Zanne Joi, organizer for Code Pink.  

A case in point, some say, is Brian G. Dennard, San Diego-based businessman who on March 22 called on the Eagle Up demonstrators at the Marine Recruiting Center to support the boycott. Dennard is a partner in Reno-based Meridian Development Corporation, which is building a condominium project with a yacht harbor in Ensenada, Mexico. 

Dennard wrote Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates: “In that we/MDG Resorts are currently building a state of the art mega-yacht marina [in Ensenada], all of the suppliers of Marina equipment, all owners of yachts, all suppliers of yacht materials and supplies, all yacht brokers and all tangential yacht business purveyors will likewise be informed that we will not do any business whatsoever with anyone from the Berkeley area.” 

When queried by the Planet, Dennard declined to name suppliers with whom he cancelled contracts. 

Sen. Jim DeMint, R–South Carolina, hoped to jump on the boycott bandwagon, authoring a bill that would have handed Berkeley’s federal funds over to the Marines. It went down to defeat in mid-March. 


Shopping for peace 

The right-wing boycott effort resonated with Code Pink, one of the organizations that has been demonstrating against the war and against recruiting for the war outside the downtown Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center since September.  

“We decided to do a ‘buycott,’” Joi told the Planet.  

The idea behind the Businesses for Peace initiative is to get people not only to spend their money in Berkeley, which would offset any impact a boycott might have, but also to support city efforts to resolve conflict peacefully, she said. 

One of those signed up for Businesses for Peace is Andrea Ali’s Guerilla Café, an eatery in North Berkeley where one can feast on organic cornmeal waffles topped with organic strawberries while enjoying art exhibits. Currently on display is “Love Devotion Surrender,” photographs Emerson Matebele shot in Tibet. 

Ali is originally from Iraq and has family there. “As a business in Berkeley, we reserve the right to support the recruiters not being in Berkeley,” said Ali, who also displays an Obama for President sign in her window.  

There’s no “party line,” for those who sign up for Businesses for Peace. Berkeley Mills owner Gene Agress told the Planet that, while he believes the U.S. should not be fighting in Iraq, he says it is the right of the military to recruit in Berkeley.  

In addition to eating waffles at the Guerilla Café or purchasing custom-made sustainably grown hardwood goods at Berkeley Mills, one can support a Business for Peace by taking in the sounds of local jazz greats such as Faye Carol at Anna’s Jazz Island, picking up a loaf of fresh baked bread at Nabolom Bakery, or choosing a game at Eudemonia. 

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Ted Garrett told the Planet he hasn’t heard of Businesses for Peace, but he did interact with the Eagles Up group. On March 22, “I spoke to the group in Emeryville [before the Berkeley rally] and invited them back,” said Garrett who, at one time, had pictures of himself and an officer from the Marine Recruiting Center prominently displayed on the chamber website. 

Writing to the Eagles Up in an attempt to dissuade them from the boycott, Garrett said, “We ask everyone to try to separate the actions of the City Council and not harm the good, hard-working small business owners—most of whom do not live in Berkeley and therefore cannot vote in Berkeley.