Vandals Strike Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 19, 2009 - 05:21:00 PM

The United States Marine Corps Officer Selection Office in downtown Berkeley came under attack once again Wednesday night when a group of vandals broke the building’s windows with sledgehammers and splashed them with red paint. 

Officers at the recruiting center at 64 Shattuck Square were not able to say whether the incident was related to protests taking place throughout the rest of the country on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the police received a call at 8:54 p.m. Wednesday from an eyewitness who reported that three suspects were breaking the Marine Corps office’s plate-glass windows and splashing them with red paint. 

Eyewitnesses saw the suspects leave the scene immediately after the crime, Frankel said. Berkeley police officers combed the neighborhood for suspects and talked to eyewitnesses but were unable to find the culprits. 

However, an hour later, police officers arrested a man on an unrelated warrant who they consider a “person of interest” in the incident. 

Frankel said the man was a Berkeley resident but declined to release his name and age, as the incident is still under investigation. 

Captain John-Paul Wheatcroft, who has been in charge of the Marine recruiting center since Captain Richard Lund left about a year ago, confirmed that the office had been vandalized but directed all queries to Staff Sergeant Matt Deboard. 

Deboard said that, according to eyewitness accounts, a group of vandals attacked the recruiting station around 8 p.m., hitting its windows with sledgehammers and “slopping gooey thick red paint on them.” 

He said police arrived immediately after they were called. 

“We boarded up the windows as best as we could to prevent further damage,” he said. “The landlord is in the process of cleaning them up. He is paying for it.” 

Deboard said nobody was present at the office when it was vandalized. 

The Berkeley Marine recruiting center was catapulted into the national and international limelight in September 2007, when the anti-war group Code Pink first rallied outside its office in an attempt to drive the recruiters out of town. 

The Marines responded that they would stay in Berkeley as long as they had a valid lease. 

In January 2008, the Berkeley City Council came under heavy criticism when it called the downtown Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” 

The council rescinded its statement in February, explaining that while it continued to oppose the war in Iraq, it respected the men and women of the U.S. military.