Facing Cheers, Jeers, Berkeley Council Softens Anti-Marine Stance

February 15th, 2008 - by admin

Judith Scherr / Berkeley Daily Planet – 2008-02-15 23:35:01


(February 15, 2008) — After being called “idiots,” thanked profusely, having their manners upbraided, told alternatively during a three-hour public hearing that they were unpatriotic and true patriots, the Berkeley City Council softened rhetoric of a Jan. 29 council item that would have had staff write the Marines, saying their recruiters are “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” in Berkeley.

After more than three hours of speakers that rotated in and out of the 130-seat Council Chambers and a council debate that extended past 1 a.m. Wednesday—as well as 24 hours of demonstrations that drew some 2,000 people—the City Council voted 7-2 to recognize publicly the right of recruiters to locate in Berkeley, while underscoring its opposition to the “illegal and unjust” Iraq war and differentiating between condemning the war and its warriors.

Berkeley Hills-area Council-members Betty Olds and Gordon Wozniak voted against the item, having lost an earlier push for the council to issue a formal apology to the Marines.

Councilmembers Worthington and Capitelli also supported an apology, but voted for the council item.

Winter camp
The council meeting came as the climax to the round-the-clock demonstrations that began Monday evening in celebratory style with a “peace-in” at the Maudelle Shirek Building that houses the Council Chambers on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

About 40 people from Code Pink, World Can’t Wait, Veteran’s Against the War and Courage to Resist spent the night on the lawn in 14 tents and under the stars, after an evening of spirited singing and salsa dancing, mixed with serious talk of war and peace.

Dressed in army fatigues, former Marine Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, a group that helps military personnel who want to leave the armed forces, was preparing to spend the night out. A sign he propped up on a chair was directed to the Canadian government, where some 200 U.S. military men and women are seeking refuge. “Dear Canada,” the sign read, “Let U.S. war resisters stay.”

“I’m out here to support people who are protesting military recruiting in our communities,” Paterson told the Planet Monday evening. “I believe if people are going to join the military, they should know the other side of the story. I wish somebody had told me the other side of the story before I joined.”

Move America Forward
The protests Monday night and throughout the day Tuesday were set in motion by the disdain of the conservative organization Move America Forward (MAF) for Berkeley City Council support for the Marine Recruiting Center protesters and the Jan. 29 council vote to tell the recruiters they are unwelcome in Berkeley.

They sent out a call that brought hundreds to Civic Center Park, directly across the street from the Maudelle Shirek Building and the anti-war protest. At least one person drove in from as far as Colorado.

Illuminated by the glare of TV lights, MAF began its protest at 5 a.m. Tuesday with about two dozen people, carrying American flags, pictures of young people serving in Iraq or those who died there, and placards reading: “Support victory—surrender is not an option” and “Stand Untied America: Support Our Troops.”

Lisa Disbrow from Moraga was in the crowd. A Blue Star Mom and member of the Lafayette Flag Brigade, Disbrow told the Planet her son is an army officer “dedicated to peace.”

“Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines are volunteers who willingly stand in defense of this nation and every living American, and we owe them the honor that the city of Berkeley has taken away,” she said. “The city of Berkeley is actually harassing the Marines in an effort to look as though they’re in support of peace. They’re not in support of peace. They’re actually in support of terrorists.”

At around 5:30 a.m. or so, some two dozen people with U.S. Out of Iraq/ ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) placards walked across Martin Luther King Jr. Way from the peace camp and began squaring off with the pro-military group in heated verbal matches that would characterize the rest of the day and night.

A dozen police also moved across the street from the Public Safety Building and took up posts on the park perimeter.

By around 6:30 a.m., the crowd on the park side of the street had swelled to around 90 protesters, with three dozen from the pro-war contingent. The Planet caught up with KSFO Radio talk-show host Melanie Morgan, chair of Move America Forward, who explained why only a few dozen MAF supporters were there.

“We weren’t even expecting anyone to turn out—this was a media opportunity,” she said. “We weren’t expecting anyone to turn up until later this afternoon for our full demonstration and rally that we were planning for 7 o’clock [p.m.].”

(In fact, by late afternoon there were several hundred MAF supporters in Civic Center Park, bolstered by a contingent of some 60 motorcycle riders from various American Legion posts.)

Morgan addressed why she is so strongly pro-military. “They are fighting for our interests,” she said. “They are fighting to establish a beachhead in Iraq for millions of Iraqi women who have been beheaded, stoned and raped as a result of tyrannies and dictatorships.”

The Planet asked what Morgan meant by beachhead, but she said she had to go.

As discussions heated up, the Code Pink women could be seen stepping between people shouting at one another, as was the case when Scott Conover, who had lost a loved one in Iraq began yelling at a World-Can’t-Wait demonstrator carrying the picture of a person who had been tortured in Iraq. Conover was shouting that the picture was an insult to the dead American fighters in Iraq.

Nearby, Berkeley resident Andrea Prichett, who teaches high school students at B-Tech Academy, was debating a pro-military veteran: “How many of my students have gone off to war because they couldn’t get a job in this country?” she asked. “It’s either jail, unemployment or the war—that’s a pretty ugly choice and I don’t think it’s a choice you had to make back in your day.”

Some of the protesters on both sides of the issue became agitated at different points during the day. Berkeley Police sent lines of officers into the fray from time to time to separate the two sides.

Four people were arrested during the day and charged with misdemeanors, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, police spokesperson.

At about 1 p.m. a pro-military protester from Rockland, Calif., was arrested for brandishing a knife, booked into the Berkeley jail and released. Kusmiss said Code Pink members had draped a pink banner around the man, which caused him to pull out a knife and allegedly threaten to kill a demonstrator.

The arrest of two young men, 13 and 15, at around 3:15 p.m., enraged the large number of young people who had joined the demonstration after school. The 3,000-student Berkeley High School is just south of the park.

According to police, the young men in question were wearing orange bandanas, which made police believe they were “aligned” with World Can’t Wait. At noon, they had gotten into “heated verbal exchanges” with pro-military demonstrators at Civic Center Park, where they normally skateboard at lunchtime.

“Both sides were admonished by Berkeley Police,” said Kusmiss, the Berkeley police spokesperson. The youth returned after school “and police saw two young men challenging the pro-military group to a fight,” Kusmiss said.

Believing that the situation might escalate, the officers arrested both young men. Students at the demonstration told the Planet the police had been unnecessarily rough with their friends. Police did not confirm this.

The arrests sparked anger among several hundred of the protesters, including 50 to 100 high school-age youth, who went across the street to the Public Safety Building, where the arrestees were taken, and attempted to sit on the Public Safety Building steps.

Their refusal to move was met by about 25 police in riot gear who pushed the protesters back with their batons.

One woman in the crowd was arrested who allegedly slapped an officer, according to Kusmiss.

Speaking their truth
In the evening, the City Council moved through its usual array of business—possible new taxes, zoning questions, air quality issues and more—and took up public comment at about 9:15 p.m., rotating people who wished to speak through the small Council Chambers.

According to City Manager Phil Kamlarz, police and city management determined public safety could not be assured had the meeting been moved to a larger venue, such as the Berkeley Community Theater.

Speakers were given a minute each to address the council, while outside a crowd of several hundred reacted with cheers or boos while listening to the meeting over a loud speaker.

Debbie Lee stood before the council with a picture of her son, a Navy Seal killed in Iraq. “He gave up his life for freedom,” she said, adding that no army recruiter had lied to him. Lee asked the council for an apology. “You have offended us deeply,” she said.

Debbie Parrish’s son is serving his second tour in Iraq. “My son is happy to be there,” she told the council. “He’s not going to come home in a body bag.”

Several Berkeley residents told the council that its position on the recruiting center did not represent them. “It’s not right to imply you represent all Berkeley citizens,” Roselyn Tademy said.

Michael Roberts, also of Berkeley, told the council he opposes the war. “You made a mistake,” he said, speaking of opposition to the recruiting center. “Young people have a right to choose” the military.

Jeff Thompson was among several UC Berkeley students who are veterans and spoke to the council. “We need to recruit students into the military, he said. “We need educated people in the military.”

San Ramon Assemblyman Guy Houston, who is calling for the state legislature to cut Berkeley’s state transportation funds as punishment for its anti-recruiter stance, told the council that it has “embarrassed the country.” (The council did not respond, but the mayor earlier in the week called the legislation “demagoguery.”)

Dozens of speakers thanked the council for its support. Jean Stewart from El Sobrante was among them: “I want to express gratitude for your courageous and gutsy stand,” she said, noting that recruiters don’t tell young people they may come home maimed or in body bags. “It shocks me that more city councils haven’t done what you’ve done,” she added.

Several Berkeley High students spoke out, including Rose Goldstein, 14, and Giovanni Jackson. Jackson told the council students had “braved police batons” earlier in the day. “There are a million Iraqis who are dead,” he said. “We’re determined to shut down the recruiting station.”

Sharon Kufeldt, vice-president of Veterans for Peace, told the council that incidents of rape and abuse of potential recruits by recruiters has meant that when recruiters now interview women, they must do so in pairs. “I’m not anti-military,” said the veteran. “I’m not anti-Marine.”

Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass, a UC Berkeley professor, was among the grateful Berkeley residents. “I’m proud to be part of Berkeley, to say thank you to you,” he said, noting that the council stance will be recorded as “one of the honorable chapters” in Berkeley history.

Responding to threats by legislators to cut off state and federal funds, Jennifer Kidder of Berkeley said that instead of slashing funds, congress should be cutting off the flow of recruits to war. “I am so proud of you,” she told the council.

“We love you,” Berkeley resident George Lippman told the council. “You represent the best in Berkeley—don’t turn back; don’t recant.”

Berkeley resident Claire Greensfelder praised the council for the “unintended consequence—a dialog about the war on national TV.”

Councilmember Dona Spring responded in kind later in the evening. “I’m so proud of those who came out to speak tonight,” she said. “We burn a light for the rest of the world.”

Letters from Readers

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily Planet has published and continues to published letters from all sides of the issue. Our definition of “local” letters includes the greater Bay Area. Signed letters from non-locals—again, from all sides of the debate—are published on our website.

I just read the Fox News report concerning the Marine Recruiters in Berkeley. Berkeley City Council, what where you thinking? I cannot believe the shame that you have brought upon the citizens of Berkeley with your recent vote to ostracize and disrespect the Marine Corps recruiters working in Berkeley. The personal feelings of the mayor and councilmembers should not enter into the business of running the city. You are representing the citizens of Berkeley and not your own personal interests.

I was born in Oakland and lived most of my childhood in Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland. I left the Bay Area in 1960 to pursue a career in the Marine Corps and I have served with several very fine Marine Corps Officers that were UC Berkeley graduates.

I find it hard to believe that the City Council of Berkeley does not understand the value of the Marine Corps and the other Armed Forces of the United States. The very fact that there is a City Council elected by the citizens of Berkeley is a result of the protection of our great country by the U.S. military. This includes free speech and the rights of the Code Pink organization to protest.

Peaceful protests are a part of the American way and I have no problem with them, The protests should be in accordance with all the city’s ordinances including noise, littering, pollution, and obstruction of businesses. All organized protests should be required to have a permit and the city’s police department should enforce the limits of the permit.

I recommend that the City Council rescind the vote to tell the Marine Corps Recruiters they are not welcome and treat them the same way you would treat recruiters from any major corporation such as General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, Macy’s, etc. I also recommend a proclamation from the City Council supporting the Armed Forces of the United States be issued. This would go a long way in repairing the damage you have done to the City of Berkeley’s reputation.

Bob G. Willis CFO
MGySgt USMC Retired
Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Editors, Daily Planet:

I stand with all of the writers to the Planet (and Gordon Wozniak) who feel that with respect to the Marines-Code Pink controversy neither side should get special treatment. As a previous writer mentioned, most of us would decry discrimination against, say, a family planning clinic. Equal treatment is just common sense. The prevailing political winds shouldn’t let us trample the First Amendment.

This fracas highlights an aspect of our little town that has disturbed me for a long time. If one has the temerity to express an opinion in opposition to the prevailing orthodoxy, he or she is often shouted down, ridiculed, or simply ignored. A simple question such as “how much does this cost?” or “is this our top priority?” is met with boos or catcalls from the audience. City staff has to be a little more discreet and often employs procedure and process to stymie a questioner of city policy.

We need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are truly progressive people or not. Are our minds open to new ideas? Are we really listening to each other? Or are we so arrogant, or intellectually lazy, that we resort to bullying and political procedure?

Let’s use this controversy as an opportunity for a little self-examination. Let’s start by keeping our eyes and ears open and our mouths shut. We’ll all be the better for a little listening, reflection, and respectful dialogue.

George Beier

Editors, Daily Planet:

Big lies, writ small. Delete a word, add a phrase to cause a firestorm of protest, justify an invasion, an occupation, and terrible war crimes. It’s how we got into Iraq, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba in 1898. Thus the San Francisco Chronicle (who Rightists call “Liberal Media”) left off one word (“recruiters”) from the sub headline in its front page article about Berkeley on Feb. 13 to twist the truth. Berkeley isn’t the only city that doesn’t want military recruiters who lie to our kids to get them to sign up, to send them to ruin and be ruined in an unjust war. And thousands of vets also support this position. The Chronicle’s article subverted our city government’s opposition to the war recruiters by transforming it into opposition to those who serve, knowing full well that there are veterans on the City Council.

This subversion of the truth to caricature and ridicule the City of Berkeley is intimidation against all Americans who abhor what the government is doing in their name in Iraq. The Pentagon is spending 11 billion in taxpayer dollars for marketing this year. We don’t want their marketing machine in Berkeley. All citizens have to act to end the occupation of Iraq. Opposing recruitment of our youth for Bush’s war is imperative. I urge the Chronicle to end its implicit support for that war. Slanting our news to stir up animosity is not acceptable.

Marc Sapir

Editors, Daily Planet:

For all my 19 years I’ve lived and grown up here in Berkeley, and I know it as a quiet, pleasant, comfortable place to live, far removed from whatever pop culture says it was back in the 1960s. I couldn’t care less about the war in Iraq, but what the City Council has done only helps draw ire and reinforce negative stereotypes about Berkeleyans. We are not all long-haired, pot-smoking hippies. Some of us just want to be left in peace. Please, City Council, just focus in on local issues and let Berkeley become the sleepy liberal college town it deserves to be.

Anh-vu Doan

Editors, Daily Planet:

I would like to address an argument made by a number of folks in the media and made last night at the Berkeley City Council Meeting. The argument goes: “Support the troops because it is the government’s responsibility for the unjust war.” I think this denial of troop responsibility is a denial of their conscience, and thus, their dignity. They exercise this conscience when they generate the habits that create the kind of person they become, when they chose to enter the military, and when they continuously chose to sustain their participation in an immoral and unjust war. The troops as persons are responsible. We might say they have less responsibility then government leaders, but they still have a level of responsibility, which is sufficient to be judged for participating in immoral and unjust activity, such as Iraq.

The devaluing or denial of troop responsibility manifested itself last night at the Berkeley City Council. There was general consensus that the war is unjust and they did a better job articulating the depth of the injustice. Yet, they were unwilling to hold the Marine institution and the individual troops sufficiently responsible. In turn, they buckled somewhat to the “support the troops” mantra and affirmed a right of the Marines to recruit in Berkeley. I respect the troops as persons and acknowledge the kind of courage it takes to risk one’s life, but I think we fail them and ourselves when we insist on “supporting” their immoral and unjust choices. This failure is implied when we insist on “supporting the troops” while they fight an immoral and unjust war.

I wonder how many of those who deny the personal responsibility of troops tend to simplify poverty and argue the poor are personally responsible for their situation? There’s much more which could be said, but I will leave it here for now.

Eli S. McCarthy

Editors, Daily Planet:

In America’s climate of political correctness disagreeing with the status quo is now the definition of intolerance. Craig Lazzeretti’s Feb. 13 editorial in the San Jose Mercury News (“Berkeley Becomes Home to Intolerance”) is misleading. The Berkeley protesters didn’t shoot or kill anyone. Would that more like them would speak out. Where are the voices of dissent? Why is Bush (Cheney, actually) still president? Why are the policies of the Patriot Act and wire tapping still under enforcement? Where are the voices of dissent?

For me there are not enough of them and with the current crisis in the media coverage, the voices of dissent that do exist are heard from so scantly. Unless reported with an angle such as Craig Lazzeretti’s.

Karen Clark
Sonoma County, CA

Editors, Daily Planet:

I am quite pleased to be a citizen of Berkeley these days. The City Council and the fun-loving ladies of Code Pink are raising hell and attracting the ire of Righties like Melanie Morgan—who apparently is a bit off her meds. Neurological imbalance seems to be a requirement for conservative talk show hosts.

Take a chill pill Melanie, and I’ll explain it to you. See, B-Town banned massage parlors some years ago for moral reasons. (I will not get into details as they are rather sticky.) Now, the Marines train people to kill other people. Did you know that? That’s what soldiers do. They don’t defend people, they are used as offensive weapons. The police defend people; they’re trained in peaceful conflict resolution and only use force as a last resort.

The military resolves conflicts with high explosives. So you see, Melanie, a lot of us are kind of against Marine enlistment centers because they recruit young men to commit heinous acts in order to further the goals of some very bad people in our government. Recruitment centers are basically kill parlors. And you, Melanie, a moral Pro-Lifer, are surely against Kill Parlors! Of course you are. There, you can go home now. You’re welcome. Bye.

And for those of you who are embarrassed by your City Council’s resolution: Face it, people, Planet Berzerkeley is permanently fixed in the consciousness of most of the world as the place where tofu-slurping, yoga-bending wackos gather to annoy normal people. Celebrate the vision! After all, how does one find the “happy medium” without experiencing the extremes? Berkeley has a noble legacy of demonstrating the leftward end. If we give up now, we will let a lot of people down. I know you’re with me on this, Melanie. Kisses.

Chuck Heinrichs

Editors, Daily Planet:

It is interesting that you are not printing any letters against the mayor and City Council regarding their disgusting edict to the military. I am not a “local,” however my money is spent in Berkeley. I always take out-of-town guests to Berkeley. I spend a lot of money in Berkeley. No more!

I am disgusted that in this time of war and time of daily deaths happening to our young men and women in the military that this city would take such a stance.

The military is protecting your rights and this is how they are treated? Your city representatives make me sick to my stomach. I have written to Sacramento in hopes that my one voice added to many will help stop Berkeley from receiving any money from the state for any of your projects. The City of Berkeley should be ashamed of itself. I will never step foot in this un-American, military-bashing city of fools.

Sandy Dawson
San Lorenzo

Editors, Daily Planet:

I am writing to express my deep concern with the Berkeley City Council’s moves to eject the Marines from our city. While I strongly oppose the war in Iraq, and am sickened by the death and destruction wrought there, I do not believe that blaming the Marines is the solution. As a group, the Marines are not blood-thirsty monsters. They are professionals who are trained to perform an extraordinarily difficult—and sometimes misguided—job.

While I may not agree with many of the Marines’ traditions and practices—including their questionable recruiting practices targeting vulnerable populations—it is undeniable that their organization offers a viable career path to young people who may have few other educational or professional opportunities open to them.

It is the country’s leaders who are the war mongers, and who should be held accountable for their misguided zealotry and deceit. Rather than attacking the Marines—and putting Berkeley at risk of losing federal funds at a time when California faces a fiscal crisis—the Berkeley City Council should be supporting our troops. We should all be doing everything possible to ensure the election of politicians who will end the war and end the misuse of our brave soldiers.

I sincerely hope that the City Council will retract its demonizing attacks on the Marines, and go back to serving as the moral conscience for the nation.

Gwyneth Galbraith

Editors, Daily Planet:

As supporters of the pro-troop organization Move America Forward, our family was shocked to learn of Berkeley’s attack on the Marines. We have contacted the Berkeley City Council, notifying them we are boycotting the city and are calling upon Congress to cease all federal funding of special projects in Berkeley until the city reverses their misguided “resolutions.”

If it weren’t for the brave people like the Marines fighting for freedom overseas, we would be fighting the terrorists on our own soil.

One of our relatives interned on U.S. soil during World War II simply because he was an American citizen of Japanese ancestry nonetheless fought bravely for the U.S. and earned a Purple Heart while serving in the Japanese-American 442nd team of the U.S. Army, the most decorated unit in American military history. Our family knows first-hand the commitment and sacrifice of our brave soldiers.

The Berkeley City Council’s disgraceful acts against the Marines are nothing short of treason, and they need to be taught a valuable lesson that their unconscionable actions will have consequences.

Esao, Cheryl and Brian Tada
Mill Valley

Editors, Daily Planet:

The considerable local and national attention paid to the Berkeley City Council’s resolution to eject the Marine recruiters is thoroughly warranted—but not for the reasons so far discussed. The council’s actions should not be evaluated in terms of the war in Iraq, or in terms of freedom of speech or assembly. There is a more fundamental issue involved: the power of local government to oppose the raising of the U.S. military.

This issue is described in a national petition that has quickly garnered broad support. The petition was drafted by Marine veteran Nicholas Provenzo. As he points out, no local government can oppose the national government in its task of building a military. Article I, Section VII of the Constitution charges Congress with the responsibility of raising and supporting an army. Running the recruiters out of town would hinder a legitimate function of the national government and thwart a mandate of the U.S. Constitution. This is no small matter.

By its nature, the military as such is a non-political entity. It is charged with upholding the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress – whatever laws those may be. To point out the obvious, as a national organ of defense, the military continually protects and defends of all areas of the United States, in wartime and in peacetime, regardless of residents’ political views. Additionally, recruiters cannot recruit for specific wars or missions per se, and few if any military personnel are assigned to only one mission in the course of their service. The council’s actions are therefore short-sighted in the extreme, if not selectively blind. Such actions, whether concrete or symbolic, suggest that the Council and its supporters wish to have their cake and eat it too.

When different levels of government disagree, the proper place to resolve it is in the courts. Political opinions, no matter how strongly held, cannot trump the proper organization and delimitation of duties among levels of government. To do so willfully would be an act of lawlessness and subversion. After two weeks of passionate disagreement, one can only hope that all parties will remember that “reason is the life of the law”—at all levels of government.

Katherine Brakora

Editors, Daily Planet:

Our mayor and City Council made public statements that the Marines are unwelcome in Berkeley. Because of these statements, a previously obscure Republican senator from South Carolina proposed that all federal funds should be taken from Berkeley. Today (Tuesday, Feb. 12), there is talk of the City Council rescinding their statements. I see this as about the current war in Iraq. Many cities in this land are against this war, although the congress has not been able to defund it. In the city council’s statements against the Marines, the Berkeley City Council is publicly taking a stand against the war in Iraq.

Other cities could take such a stand, this would not look good, our nation’s people actually stating an opinion against a nation’s war, so Berkeley has been threatened with withdrawal of funds for their stand against this war. I suspect no other cities will dare to take a stand against the war publicly. I hope the rest of the world knows that once again people of the United States have been intimidated.

Ardys DeLu

Editors, Daily Planet:

This letter is written on behalf of the Steering Committee of Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA); we were not able to conduct a vote of our membership given our short time frame.

BCA supports the original resolution passed by City Council and we urge you not to back away from principled position of that statement.

In BCA’s 30-plus years of existence as an organization, we have seen the United States engage in unjust, costly and illegal military operations. We are approaching the five-year anniversary of our presence in Iraq, five years that have brought death to both Americans and Iraqis and what may turn out to be irreparable destruction and disruption of that country.

We know that the economic and other pressures which propel young people into the armed services often occur before they fully understand what their role will be or what actions they’ve committed themselves to undertake. We know that military recruiters have quotas to fill and are not beyond appealing to young people with patriotic propaganda and tempting claims of job training, college, etc.

The location of the Marine Recruiting Office in downtown Berkeley is strategically placed in proximity to students at Berkeley High, Berkeley City College and UC. Our City should not be a site for recruiting for war but rather for educating our youth to understand and practice peaceful alternatives. Recruiters should not be free to appeal to youth who are sometimes not yet even old enough to vote!

We strongly disagree with those who say the original resolution showed lack of support for our troops. Our Steering Committee supports the safety of our troops by demanding that they be brought home immediately. Nor were there incorrect or disrespectful statements in the resolution; unfortunately, the “offensive” statements are true.

Mayor and City Council, you are our elected representatives. You represent the positions and opinions of our citizens which have consistently opposed this and other wars. We urge you to stand strong behind your original resolution. The Marines should know that Berkeley is one community that stands for peace and against feeding the war machine.

Linda Olivenbaum
Berkeley Citizens Action
Steering Commitee

Editors, Daily Planet:

I am a 16-year-old sophomore at Berkeley High School writing about the events of today’s demonstration. First off, I want to say that the demonstration today turned into an anti-war vs. a pro-war protest. In addition to the fact that this demonstration was held right next to our school, there were out-of-state and out-of-town people protesting the war, apparently oblivious to the facts that started this—that is the Berkeley City Council’s actions against the Marine Corps Recruiting Station. Also, for those out-of-towners, it is clear that this was basically a hate on Berkeley opportunity, and that, in a totally cowardly manner, they chose to vent their anger and hatred towards Berkeley at its minor citizens, that is, Berkeley High School students.

Everyday, before school, at lunch, and after school, students pass thought the park. Plus the city recently built two sets of double skateboard ledges in the park, where all during the day students go and skate. Thus we have come to take this part of the park as a safe and peaceful area to spend our time. But when we have the city of Berkeley allowing and setting up a demonstration in our “peaceful” area, it tends to aggravate the students who spend their minimum amount of free time there.

As the pro-war protesters spent their time in the park they continuously harassed the students who were there. During the day it gradually enraged the skaters that as the anti-war protesters were asked politely to move from a four-foot section (out of a total of 60 feet of ledges), the anti-war protester would not obliged the skaters’ requests. Plus they went to greater lengths to further enrage the skaters by verbally abusing them and calling more protesters to come to sit on the ledges.

After school I went over to the park with my friends to skate, like we always do. My friends asked if a few middle-aged men would please move away from a small section of the ledges so that they could skate. The men, in response, verbally abused them. We had been, throughout the day, harassed by this same group of non-Berkeley residents. They called us maggots! They refused to leave and my friends finally were so enraged that there was a series of verbal exchanges. Between the middle age men and young high school skaters. Then the police came over and separated the two groups but the middle-aged men continued to harass the students from behind the cops.

As I witnessed my friends circle around to the back side of the police to continue I saw my friends get pushed and then hit by these men, although I saw none of my friends hit anyone, and they say they did not as well. In response to these BHS students getting beaten by out-of-town middle-aged men who were twice the size of my friends, Berkeley police, about 10 of them, came over and stared hitting any students they could see with their night sticks. I was hit twice and while I was pushed away. I watched as one of my friends was hit by one of the middle age men and as another two of my friends where arrested.

I want to know why the City of Berkeley was not able to predict this outcome, and why they think the are free to pursue such frivolous and meaningless gestures without thinking about the consequences.

Why, also did the police focus 100 percent of their aggression and brutality towards the Berkeley High School students and not towards the ones who where attacking us? Why did the city endorse the police actions which did not protect Berkeley kids, but turned on them when they were being harassed and attacked by adults.

The Berkeley High Students were innocent by-standers in the whole circus which was prompted by an irresponsible, self-indulgent City Council. The Berkeley High School students had no place else to be, and no place else they should have been at 3:15 in the afternoon. They had just been released from school. That they had to exit school into this, and then be the targets of out of town harassment and police aggression is really amazing and wrong. Why, in fact, does the City of Berkeley use Berkeley tax money to pursue ineffective gestures when there are many unsolved and unaddressed problems which are real issues to which they should focus their attention. Unlike a “symbolic” but arbitrary parking space, BHS is in need of books, supplies, and classrooms. Unlike these anti-war non-efforts of the city, a large percentage of BHS students are most likely going to be in the war in the next few years, and yet, the city’s finest turned its clubs on us.

Conrad Petraborg

Editors, Daily Planet:

As one who was raised in Berkeley, attended Berkeley Public Schools, and later served honorably in the Marines for two decades (active and reserve), I received word of the Berkeley City Council’s condemnation of the Marine Officer Selection Office with both shock and disgust. Statements made by the mayor and councilmembers during the Jan. 29 council meeting were offensive and inflammatory. These statements indicated a hatred of all Marines, and not just a protest against this country’s involvement in Iraq. I am therefore compelled to write to you urging you to apologize for, and retract, your derogatory comments, and rescind your resolutions against the Marines.

The United States Marine Corps has a proud history dating back to Nov. 10, 1775. when it was originally formed by an act of the Continental Congress. The Marine Corps has served with particular distinction in every American armed conflict, including the Revolutionary War. It is true that Marines are proud of their combat history—they should be. But there is one important fact about the Marines that you have either overlooked, or purposefully ignored in your revilement of all things military. In any given year, U.S. troops—including the Marines—undertake humanitarian projects and missions in nearly 100 countries. I’ll wager that the Marine Corps has participated in more humanitarian missions and projects than combat missions over their 232-year history.

To Marines, rendering aid is not the same as sitting back in the comfort of your Berkeley Hills home in front of your computer and sending a check to charitable organizations. It is being outside in the sweltering heat or bitter cold, ensuring that the victims of man-made or natural disasters have life-saving food, water, shelter and medical treatment. It is traveling to impoverished communities to build medical clinics and schools. Marines are just as proud as the assistance they give to others as their combat record. Listing all of the humanitarian missions and civilian evacuations undertaken by the U.S. Marines in their history would fill an encyclopedia. Here are just a few examples.

In January 200,1 Marines deployed to East Timor to work on orphanages, schools, medical clinics and other structures to improve the quality of lives for hundreds of East Timorese. In November 2001, Marines deployed to Djibouti where they assisted in the treatment of approximately 1,700 medical and dental patients, installed generators, solar panels and sanitation systems.

In March 2004 Marines deployed to Haiti to provide medical assistance, distribute water, and clear trash from city streets. In June 2004 Marines traveled to Guatemala to construct clinics, a schoolhouse and other projects. Marines participated in the humanitarian aid efforts in New Orleans and the surrounding areas following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

In May and June of 2006, at the request of the Indonesian government, Marines provided emergency aid to the Indonesian people suffering from the effect of the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

After a massive earthquake struck Pakistan in October 2007, Marines played a role in the massive relief effort to provide medical and humanitarian aid. Marines recently completed a humanitarian assistance operation in Bangladesh. The aid was requested by the government of Bangladesh following the death and destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Sidr in November 2007.

Marines have been involved in getting U.S. citizens out of danger since its creation. Most recently, Marines helped evacuate people from Indonesia after the tsunami in 2005, from Liberia in 2004 and 1993, and from Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.

To whine that Marines are the president’s gangsters and trained killers, and use those comments as justification to excoriate the Marines who are serving this country is insulting and intentionally misleading. You say the Marines aren’t welcome in your city. The call to arms you passed in the form of the measure encouraging people and organizations to actively impede the work of the Marine recruiters is arguably illegal, and violates the rights of young men and women who wish to visit the recruiting office. Instead of subjecting the young men and women serving at the Marine recruiting office to escalating protests, with the increasing risk of violence, you should go there and meet with them personally—get to know them. They are not faceless robots. They are American citizens who deserve as much protection from you in your city as anyone else does. If you do meet with them, and get to know them, you will find they have much in common with you and your own grown children. They just want to serve their country. Is that really so bad?

Ralph Kasarda, Jr.
Sacramento, California