The City Council of Berkeley, California, has shocked the nation once again with its disrespect for the United States military. They passed a resolution by a vote of 8-1 telling the Marine Corps that they are unwelcome, and that they should move their recruitment center out of the city. In addition, the City Council waived the permit fee for Code Pink protesters, and gave them a permanent parking spot in front of the recruitment center. Let us not forget that Code Pink is the same organization that urges its members to protest with signs reading, “Military Predators out of our Community!”
Fox News covered the resolution in an online article.
BERKELEY, Calif. – Local officials in this liberal city say it’s time for the U.S. Marines to move out.
The City Council has voted to tell the Marines their downtown recruiting station is not welcome and “if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome guests.”
The measure passed this week by a vote of 8-1.
The council also voted to explore enforcing a city anti-discrimination law, focusing on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
In a separate item, the council voted, also 8-1, to give protest group Code Pink a parking space in front of the recruiting office once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week.
Marine Capt. Richard Lund of the recruiting office declined comment on the council action.
The recruiting office opened in Berkeley about a year ago, operating quietly until about four months ago when Code Pink began regular sidewalk protests.
“I believe in the Code Pink cause. The Marines don’t belong here, they shouldn’t have come here, and they should leave,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
Code Pink is circulating petitions to get a measure on the ballot in November making it more difficult to open military recruiting offices in Berkeley if they are near homes, parks, schools, churches, libraries or health clinics.
Some employees and business owners aren’t happy with the weekly protests.
“My husband’s business is right upstairs, and this (protesting) is bordering on harassment,” Dori Schmidt told the council. “I hope this stops.”
The City Council received sharp criticism, and will likely change the wording of the resolution, as reported in the Berkeley Daily Planet:
If the Berkeley City Council approves an item on the Feb. 12 council agenda, it will clarify city support for the troops-while continuing to condemn the war-and will rescind the part of the Jan. 29 council item that called the downtown Marine Recruiting Station “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”
Councilmember Laurie Capitelli is sponsoring the Feb. 12 revision, along with Councilmember Betty Olds.
Capitelli told the Planet that while he opposes the war, he wants to be clear that the council action does not imply non-support for the troops.
“My position is that policy makers send those people into harms way,” he said “I want to get them sent home.”
“We failed to make it clear that while we continue to oppose what we consider an unethical and illegal war in Iraq, at the same time we respect and honor all the brave men and women who are serving or have served in the military,” Capitelli and Olds say in a joint press statement that also states: “We have erred by not adequately differentiating between the war and the warriors.”
As for telling the marine recruiters they are not welcome, Capitelli said if the recruiters opt to stay, despite the legal demonstrations outside their office, that’s up to them.
However, Capitelli and Olds say in the press statement: “…the recommendation to inform the Marine Corps recruiting office that they are not welcome in our city, was insulting, hurtful and wrong.”
“I wish we wouldn’t have Marines anywhere,” Capitelli said. “But they have a legal right to be here.”
Old agreed. “They do have a right to come,” she said, adding that service personnel should not be condemned: “They have to do what they are told to do.”
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who, along with Olds, voted against the entire council item Jan. 29, told the Planet, “Laurie and Betty’s item is a step in the right direction.”
He said he’d like to see the entire council item rescinded, along with an apology to the Marine Corps. The item has “pretty inflammatory stuff,” he said. “People are letting their opposition to the war interfere with their good judgment.”
If the Olds-Capitelli council item passes the other two parts of the item will remain intact: asking the city attorney to research whether Berkeley’s anti-discrimination laws apply to the Marine Recruiting Center and supporting “residents and organizations such as Code Pink that may volunteer to impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office located in the city of Berkeley.”
Councilmember Dona Spring told the Planet that she agreed, in part with Capitelli and Olds: “We could have been more diplomatic, politely asking them to leave,” Spring said. However, Spring said a clear statement needs to be made: U.S. policy “is the antithesis of life and liberty. We need to take a strong stand against this military regime that provokes violence, murder and torture. We need to reflect Berkeley values.”
On Jan. 29, Capitelli, Councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Dona Spring, Darryl Moore and Mayor Tom Bates voted for the three-part item. Councilmember Kriss Worthington opposed the section that called the Marines “unwelcome intruders” and supported the other two parts of the item.
The Councilwomen who are sponsoring the resolution explained their stance in “An Open Letter to the Men and Women in the Military and to the Citizens of Berkeley”:
(Posted on Feb. 5, at 11:45 a.m.)-On several occasions since the war began in 2003, the Berkeley City Council has publicly and passionately stated its opposition to the war in Iraq. On January 29, 2008, the Berkeley City Council approved a series of recommendations intended to impede the recruiting activities of the downtown Berkeley Marine Corps office, which for many people in Berkeley has become a symbol of that war.
Specifically, the recommendation to inform the Marine Corps recruiting office that they are not welcome in our city, was insulting, hurtful and wrong. We failed to make it clear that while we continue to oppose what we consider an unethical and illegal war in Iraq, at the same time we respect and honor all the brave men and women who are serving, or have served, in the military.
In our passionate opposition to this war, and in our horror and frustration over the thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands Iraqis who have died in it, we have erred by not adequately differentiating between the war and the warriors. It is understandable that the unnecessarily inflammatory language included in the Council_s action offended and insulted many Marines and their families. We apologize to all those in the military and their families, who took personal offense. This was not our intention.
In a completely separate action, the Berkeley City Council granted fee waivers for permits to an organization actively protesting the Marine Corps office. To grant a privilege to one group while actively seeking to eliminate the legal presence of another is discriminatory and contrary to our long-standing support of free speech. In retrospect, the City Council should have considered the impact such an action would have on the rights of free speech and expression for all citizens. These rights must be paramount and must be preserved and protected for all of us.
If Berkeley is truly to remain the home of free speech, then our priority should be to preserve it for all citizens, so that personal and governmental decisions can be made through informed debate.
Berkeley Councilmember Betty Olds, District 6
Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, District 5
Many Berkeley citizens wrote to the newspaper condemning the profound disrespect shown by the City Council, and the violation of basic free speech principles by giving preferential treatment to a particular group whose views are similar to those of the local government.
Here is a sampling of the Berkeley Daily Planet’s Letters from the Readers:
OUT OF CONTROL
Editors, Daily Planet:
The recent action on the part of the City Council to “ban” the marine recruiting center should be a strong wake up call to all Berkeley residents that the City Council is out of control and it is time to elect new leaders. As a longtime and now former resident (over 20 years), I have watched with increasing disdain as the elected officials in this town destroy piece by piece the once proud legacy of free speech and expression. That the city government would take a stand in suppression of the free speech rights of the marines is unfathomable. Just as protesters have every right to voice their disapproval of military actions overseas, the marines have a right to their free speech in this town as well. To have a governmental body take sides suppressing the free speech of another is an embarrassment, and is just one in an increasing number of actions by the City Council that is quickly leading this city to being the most repressive and closed-minded enclave in our country. The City Council has again taught us and our children that free speech is only our right when we agree with the City Council, otherwise we are uninvited and unwelcome.
NOT A QUESTION OF
Editors, Daily Planet:
A lot of noise is being made about the attempts of Berkeley citizens to shut down the Marines Recruiting Station on Shattuck Avenue, only a few blocks from the local high school, the newly opened community college and the University of California.
Part of the disinformation campaign against the citizens includes the allegation that the home of the Free Speech Movement should somehow protect the “right” of the recruiters to sell their product to the young people of the community.
I was a part of the class of 1965 of the University of California at Berkeley. The Free Speech Movement is something I saw close up and was in support of. I remember well what happened.
In the fall of 1964, many of the students at Berkeley were returning from a summer spend registering black voters in the south. Proposition 14 was on the November ballot, which would have erased laws on the books prohibiting racial discrimination in housing and would have forbidden the writing of new laws against such discrimination. The powers that be correctly realized that Berkeley students could be expected to spend the fall registering black voters in Oakland. This would have significantly changed the power structure in Oakland. Someone contacted the highest ranking member of the UC administration on campus in the early days of the semester, Dean of Women Katherine Towle, an ex-Marine. She issued the edict that students would not be permitted to set up tables on issues of political importance on the University campus.
Students were almost universally shocked and outraged. We managed to organize for voter registration anyway, working out of local student organizations such as the Wesley Foundation and Stiles Hall. Nevertheless, students who wanted to organize politically on campus were being denied their rights as citizens. They joined together across political lines to ask the University to retract the ban. The steering committee included everyone from the Young Socialist Alliance to Youth for Goldwater. Many meetings with the University were held, but the higher levels of administration stood behind Dean Towle’s action. (President Clark Kerr in a much later article in the Alumni Association paper stated he regretted not having overturned the ban.)
To return to the present, I want to say that the Free Speech Movement was clearly focussed on the right of political expression of the students as citizens. To invoke the FSM as a support for the Marines Recruiting Station is to twist history. It is documented that recruiters lie to young people about the supposed benefits of joining the military. Recruiters falsely claim that the recruit will not be sent into combat.
The FSM was about the right to political expression, not the right of anyone to engage in false advertising to lure young people into an institution in which they will be forced to kill or be killed and from which they will returned wounded in body and in mind and spirit.
I will also point out that when we won the right to free speech and political action, the next big action on the University campus was the Vietnam teach in where we sat in the thousands in Edward Field and learn from I.F. Stone the true history of Vietnam, the French colony whose liberation the United States had opposed and was trying to reverse, where we organized ourselves in the beginning phases of the anti-war movement.
Carolyn Smith Scarr
Editors, Daily Planet:
We are appalled and dismayed by the 8-1 vote of the City Council last Tuesday telling Marine recruiters they are not welcome in Berkeley and if they stay, “they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” It’s inconceivable to us that the Berkeley City Council would provide anti-abortion activists a designated parking space in front of an abortion clinic and a free sound permit as granted to the Code Pink protesters. (Unfortunately, it is conceivable to us that the City Council would find a way of limiting the anti-abortion speech if it were as loud and aggressive as the Code Pink protesters, as is their right, are reported to be.) Would the members of the City Council do away with the Marines and other branches of the military? The world is a rough place. As much as we abhor the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, we are profoundly grateful to the men and women who serve in the military. We thank Gordon Wozniak for his calm and rational consideration of this matter. We can only hope that the Council will revisit this matter with the level of mature deliberation it deserves.
Editors, Daily Planet:
As a Berkeley citizen, I’m disappointed by the recent City Council vote condemning the Marine Recruiting Station as an “uninvited and unwelcome intruder.” When did American citizens who are willing to lay down their lives for the rights of the rest of us become uninvited and unwelcome?
I am against the war, but I support the men and women who choose to serve our country.
I’m appalled that Code Pink is choosing to use the same misguided, gruesome, and intimidating tactics used by far right anti-abortion protesters.
I encourage the Berkeley City Council to reconsider their support for this resolution.
Editors, Daily Planet:
I was saddened by María Ryan’s letter complaining that the Berkeley City Council is giving Code Pink a parking space. She writes, “their message is already getting out” and that shoppers need those spaces. She states that they are guilty of loitering, creating a nuisance and parking violations. She does not say if she has an opinion about the morality of the war Bush has taken our country into. So I don’t know if she is bothered by the crime of preemptive aerial bombing of civilian populated cities in Iraq. Or the pictures of the hooded torture victims from Abu Ghraib. Or the fact that we are approaching four thousand U.S. deaths and countless wounded, including many head injuries. Or that our cities and schools are rapidly going broke as we waste all our money on weapons of death and destruction.
The fact that our soldiers are volunteers makes us as citizens no less responsible for their safety, especially as these soldiers were lied to about the reasons for this war. We need to demand they be brought home safely now, and anything we can do to protect our youth from being recruited into this madness should be done. May I suggest for anyone feeling apathetic about our troops that you rent the Vietnam era film “Coming Home”.
Personally I am grateful that members of Code Pink continue to have the courage and the selflessness to put themselves out there week after week. And I’m in favor of the City Council doing anything they can to support them. I would suggest any American citizen who knows this is an illegal and immoral war should be joining them in finding ways to hinder it and bring it to an end. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
WOZNIAK GOT IT RIGHT
Editors, Daily Planet:
Except for what was reported in the Daily Planet, I do not know what was or wasn’t said in last week’s City Council meeting, regarding the dedication of a parking space on Shattuck Avenue to those protesting the presence of the Marine Recruiting Center. Gordon Wozniak appears to be the one person who got it right-this is showing favoritism. The council is taking sides in a free speech issue when it should be upholding a larger principal-the right of free speech itself. It certainly is disgraceful that, in the home of the Free Speech Movement, the Council took favored position over the other. It is also disgraceful that the only voice articulating this disgrace in Judith Scherr’s article is that of Melanie Morgan of Move America Forward.
But the most disgraceful thing of all is that the City Council in the home of the Free Speech Movement did not stand up as one and unanimously declare to protect the rights both of the demonstrators and recruiters. Instead, a large majority favored one side over another, based on a partisan point of view rather than on a larger principal that sanctions our freedom to have partisan points of view. Here in Berkeley you can say whatever you want and get the Council’s support, as long as it suits the prevailing political wind. (Our illustrious mayor is excused, since his stance on free speech was made clear early one morning seven years ago when he was caught stealing hundreds of copies of the election day Daily Californian-oh, I forgot, fatigue had clouded his judgment.) But what else should we expect from City Council members who are politicians first and foremost, and who, as a Massachusetts sage once observed of certain people, would rather that you love them than love the truth.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Teens are vulnerable to the great pressure that military recruiters have to sign them up. They are told-almost always incorrectly-that they will not be sent to a war zone and that they can get education and training for whatever skill and position they want. Then they sign a contract that turns out to be worthless. Once they get to boot camp, they are told that all agreements are void and that, in fact, the military now owns them outright-lock, stock and barrel. And, yes they can do whatever they want with you.
Certainly, those who defend the recruiter’s location near schools, etc. (for that appears to be the main issue in Berkeley), should be respected. But I can’t help noticing that they live inside a mythology that has little to do with reality. This mythology states that America is a constant force for good in the world, that we are out there “defending democracy.”…and that military service is a reasonable and good “career” option even in times of open, and probably endless, war. All myths.
I am not a member of Code Pink, nor am I personally inclined to engage in sidewalk protests. But the Code Pink members strike me as caring, and very wide-eyed and grounded in the genuine reality that these young people will face. I can’t help but admire them for speaking out and for trying to show some light on the issue.
Editors, Daily Planet:
No matter what you think about the military, the war in Iraq or the Marines in Berkeley, the ongoing saga of protests by Code Pink and other groups against the recruiting office has gotten just a bit out of hand. With the mayor and the City Council getting involved it’s actually going way over the top. The council’s 6-3 vote to ask the Marines to leave is again a hypocritical move against their legal right to stay in Berkeley. The council has taken sides, poured fuel on the fires of a vocal minority and again, drawn more public attention to those who want to find any reason to punish Berkeley. Unfortunately the majority of the council tends to think more along ideological lines than practical ones. This, as a result, ends up taking up valuable council time on issues that actually have little local impact (unlike the coming city budget deficit).
National media including conservative talk radio pun dents who love to bash Berkeley have helped polarize the silliness of this whole thing. Again, make Berkeley look like the soul bastion of radical thinking and one-sided opinion. Having lived here just about my whole dang life I would say Berkeley, is a great mixture of opinions and yes there are a very vocal minority who continually think they can push their opinion down everyone’s throat. You know, like the Moral Majority once tried to do nationally.
Since the 1960s when the Free Speech Movement took center stage on the Berkeley campus this city has been the supposed bastion of free speech. Doesn’t that mean things that are totally legal and involve self-selection (like joining the Marines) have the right to exist? You can not like it, you can hate, you can protest it-that’s all part of free speech, but to ban them from doing this or to force them out is well, fanatical, one-sided and against free speech.
The irony of this whole thing is the Marines have continually said that they support the right of the protesters to protest them. And, that their job is to actually protect the rights of all Americans, including Code Pink protesting them, according the U.S. Constitution.
And, lets top this off with the fact that many of the protesters are not from Berkeley but use Berkeley and the Marine Recruiting office as a publicly visible way of making their cause known nationally.
So, the ultimate result is the Marines are getting tons of free publicity and are probably having record recruitment efforts, Code Pink is getting lots of press, while Berkeley is being laughed at (again) nationally and becoming the whipping boy of the far right as some federal legislators who hate us look for any reason to cut funds or punish Berkeley.
In a town with enough brain power and PhD’s to probably solve global warming we’ve again gotten wrapped up in a linear non-thinking response to a non-issue for ideological reasons that solves nothing but gives Berkeley it’s noted reputation for extremist radicalism.
THE CORPORATE EMPIRE
Editors, Daily Planet:
In the statement by the pro-war Move America Forward in the Daily Planet, the City Council is roundly blasted for an alleged attempt to “silence the same military men and women who serve this country and give their lives to protect the free speech of all Americans….”
But protecting “free speech” is not the reason why the troops are in Iraq. It’s to serve the bloody expansion of the American corporate empire to control the oil resources of the Middle East. Well-intentioned but ill-informed young people are bamboozled into joining the military on the basis of saving our liberties and an uncritical “my country right or wrong” nationalism.
Enlistment would hardly sound attractive to potential recruits if they were told they would be sent to die for the profit greed of Big Oil.
I’m a nearly 82-year-old World War II Navy vet who also believes in free speech. I refuse to be silenced for my condemnation of this militaristic folly which portends a war without end for the sake of empire.