Pam Bennett of Code Pink was arrested Friday, June 13, when she bared her breasts in front of Berkeley’s downtown Marine Recruiting Station.
“War is indecent—breasts are not,” Bennett told the Planet on Monday. “Four million people displaced, lacking food and water is indecent—breasts are not.”
Bennett was protesting the war and recruitment for it in front of the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square with a group from Code Pink and Breasts not Bombs, a Mendocino-based group that bares breasts publicly as an anti-war statement.
She was the only one to be arrested.
According to Officer Andrew Frankel, police department spokesperson, Bennett was arrested for violating Berkeley’s law against nudity.
Frankel said the other demonstrators put their shirts back on, when asked to do so by police officers, but Bennett took hers off a second time and was arrested.
Bennett said that a second person took her shirt off twice, but that person was not arrested. Bennett claims she was arrested because she is a leader in the Code Pink actions and that police are trying to intimidate Code Pink leaders.
She had expected to use Friday’s action to provoke questions among passers-by and to create an opportunity to discuss the obscenity of war. The arrest is “a violation of free speech rights,” she said.
Frankel said the arrests were not complaint-driven. Police had advance notice of the demonstration and planned the arrests. “They were told we would not tolerate the violations,” Frankel said.
Asked by the Planet why people are allowed to walk nude in the How Berkeley Can You Be Parade year after year, Frankel responded only that “I’ve never been to a How Berkeley Can You Be Parade.”
Bennett told the Planet that the breast is a “symbol of survival—many of us were fed at the breast.”
“I fed my children at the breast,” she said. “The symbol is clearly pro-peace and anti-war.”
Bennett pointed out that Sherry Glaser, of Breasts not Bombs, has demonstrated in front of recruiting stations 15 times. There was an arrest only once, she said.
Friday’s arrest “was a totally political arrest. I was a political prisoner,” Bennett said.
At a demonstration at the downtown Oakland recruiting station two years ago, the Planet witnessed a group of Oakland police officers negotiate with some 15 demonstrators—most of whom kept their shirts off for about an hour. The officers promised that as long as there was no violence or vandalism, there would be no arrests. And there weren’t.
“Berkeley’s code is pretty clear,” Frankel told the Planet. “The courts will decide.”