Monday, February 04, 2008

Marine Corps recruiting center in Downtown Berkeley and the power of money

Members of the Berkeley City Council showed their opposition to a Marine Corps recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley on January 30.
Council members supported the two resolutions-one supporting anti-war protests and the other criticizing military recruitment practices-citing opposition to the war in Iraq, deceptive recruitment practices and the right to protest.
Code Pink, a national anti-war grassroots organization, will be granted a parking spot for their regular Wednesday afternoon protests and will not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months, under one resolution.
The other resolution more directly criticizes the presence of the center in Berkeley. The city manager was directed to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city. In addition, the city attorney has been directed to investigate whether the city's anti-discrimination laws can be enforced at the center, based on the military's consideration of sexual orientation in hiring.
The City Council's decision echoes mounting opposition to military recruitment in the Berkeley.

However, what started with a set of resolutions against the Marine Corps recruiting center in Downtown Berkeley has escalated into a national controversy and caused the mayor to revisit the resolutions' intentions. United States Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Thursday he will introduce legislation that would strip $2,392,000 in earmarked spending for at least six projects in Berkeley from a Senate appropriations bill. This includes $975,000 for UC Berkeley's Matsui Center on Politics and Public Service and $750,000 for a planned ferry service in Berkeley.

"This is a slap in the face to all brave service men and women and their families," DeMint said in a statement. "The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money."
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who voted for the resolutions against the center, said that the council supports the troops, but said that they hope to see the war end as soon as possible.

In an effort to retain their funding, the campus plans to contact DeMint and inform him that the city and the campus are separate institutions, and inform him about the campus' ROTC program, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Marie Felde. "We are hopeful that when he has the facts he will rethink his position," she said.
(For more details, see the daily Californian).

Update: (09Feb. 88). It took a week for the story to make the news with CNN.
Update (Feb 13, 08). After a large-scale protest outside City Council chambers that began early yesterday morning, the Berkeley City Council decided not to send an apology to the Marine Corps but rather to make clear their support for members of the military.

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