Code Pink April Fool’s Day Prank

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 04, 2008

Code Pink had the last laugh on April Fool’s Day, but the anti-war group preferred to call their little prank a “hope” instead of a hoax. 

The rumors circulating late Monday night about the Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square leaving Berkeley turned out to be what a lot of people had already suspected—an April 1 joke. 

Code Pink has been protesting since September against the recruiting station, which still has about a year and a half left on its lease. 

A fake press release announcing an amicable agreement between the Marines and their landlord Sasha Shamszad—complete with what purported to be quotes from Shamszad and Michael Applegate, director of the Marine Manpower Plans and Policy Division—was posted on web sites maintained by Code Pink and the nonpartisan coalition group AfterDowningStreet.org, among others, on Monday evening.  

“The phone was off the hook,” exclaimed Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who crafted the mock release. “Channel 2, Channel 7, CBS News ... They all wanted to know if it was true. We kept making excuses, because we didn’t want to say anything before April 1. Something like that makes sense on April 1, you know, not March 31. Channel 2 actually ran with the story Monday evening but corrected it later.” 

Last year, as an April Fool’s Day joke, Code Pink announced that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had invited the group for tea after they had camped outside her house for a few weeks trying to speak to her.  

The Berkeley stunt, Benjamin said, was part of a national day of April Fool’s jokes aimed at bringing about positive change. 

Code Pink’s national leadership sent out an e-mail alert Tuesday morning with a letter from Rep. John Conyers detailing his heartfelt realization that impeachment hearings must begin.  

After that, AfterDowningStreet.org followed with an announcement that Pelosi had committed to stop any future bills to fund the war in Iraq.  

The 30 or so people who came out to hear landlord Shamszad and Applegate announce their agreement in front of the downtown Berkeley recruiting center Tuesday were not disappointed. Dressed in their signature cotton candy pink, Code Pink members played the roles of Shamszad and Marine Officer Peaceovic. 

“We are scaling down our manpower by 33 percent,” said Code Pink supporter Tigbe Barry, who was playing Peaceovic. “We will be scaling it down by 66 percent by April 15 and plan on full redeployment by April 30. This decision has nothing to do with the protests outside our recruiting station. We make decisions as part of a cost benefiting analysis of recruiting stations. We just came out with a national productivity study by office, and the Recruiting Center in Berkeley was in the bottom ten percentile. So even before we heard from our landlord, we had already made our decision to redeploy to a military friendly place.” 

“And where could that be?” asked a curious onlooker. 

“Tiburon, Tiburon,” chanted a few Code Pink members. 

No one from the recruiting office—which was locked and had its blinds drawn—came out to object to the make-believe press conference.  

“It’s open, but I don’t think they want customers right now,” said a Berkeley police officer. 

Code Pink spokesperson Zanne Joi popped a bottle of pink champagne along with Barry after the announcement. 

“Some call it April Fool’s Day, we call it hopeful April Day,” she said. “It’s a day to envision a world that’s not as crazy as today.”