Marines don't intend to leave center
Pro-military criticism floods in after council calls Corps 'intruders'
By Doug Oakley
Article Launched: 02/02/2008 03:06:25 AM PST
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Berkeley council tells Marines to leaveBERKELEY -- Mayor Tom Bates offered Friday to help the U.S. Marines leave town by negotiating an end to the lease for their recruiting station, even as he backpedaled on a City Council resolution declaring the Corps "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city.
In the face of an onslaught of pro-military criticism from around the country, Bates, a retired Army captain, also issued a statement that said the City Council's resolution Tuesday night "did not adequately differentiate our respect and support for those serving in the armed forces and our opposition to the Iraq war policy." He said he would ask the council to modify the resolution at its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 12.
A Marine Corps spokeswoman said Friday that the Corps has no intention of abandoning its space at 64 Shattuck Square that has been the subject of protests for months.
In an interview Friday, Bates said he has received more than 1,000 e-mails on the resolution, mostly from "the right wing that has really seized up on this and mobilized to pound us.
"I spoke with the landlord, who is a very nice friend of mine, and the Marines have a year and a half to go," Bates said. "I'm sure if they wanted we could work it out (so they can leave) without penalty. The situation there has disrupted the whole block."
Bates said he wants the council to rewrite its item to focus on three issues: that Berkeley does not support the Iraq war; free speech is honored in Berkeley; and "given our druthers
we would like the Marines to relocate."
"We are against the war in Iraq, and when you put a recruiting station in our midst, people are going to use that symbol as a way to oppose it," Bates said. "If pro-war people want to come here, we'll give them a permit, too."
Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin said the Corps "appreciates" the fact that the City Council is exercising its right to free speech.
"I can't predict the future, but I will tell you at this point there is no reason for us to leave," Franklin said. "We take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and part of the Constitution is the right of free speech, and the fact that they are exercising their rights solidifies our resolve to continue what we are doing."
The council voted 6-3 Tuesday to tell the Marines that their recruiting station is not welcome in the city. In a separate vote, the council supported the peace group Code Pink by giving it a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m. The council also voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines.
Councilwoman Linda Maio said the council should have read the item asking the Marines to leave more closely before it acted.
"I don't think any of us paid enough attention to it, and people want to rewrite it to more accurately portray our sentiments," said Maio, who supported the resolutions. "We really do have a great deal of concern for the people in our military, and we don't want to be critical of the sacrifices they are making."
Councilman Max Anderson, who said he received an honorable discharge from the Marines, maintained he "absolutely" wants them out of Berkeley.
"People are trying to spin it that we're against the troops, but what we're talking about is this hideous war," Anderson said.
On Friday, 40 Berkeley police officers arrested three protesters from the anti-war group World Can't Wait who chained themselves to the recruiting station and tried to prevent people from entering. They were taken to the Berkeley jail, issued misdemeanor citations and released. Protesters scuffled with at least five men who tried to enter the recruiting station.
Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan and City Councilman Gordon Wozniak were seen watching the protest with the police on the opposite side of the street. Wozniak opposed the council's action.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has threatened to introduce legislation to strip the city of federal funds -- including money going to UC Berkeley, money for school lunches in the Berkeley Unified School District and money for public safety -- as a result of the City Council's vote.
"This is a slap in the face to all brave servicemen and women and their families," DeMint wrote on his Web site. "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.
"I am currently drafting legislation to ensure that American taxpayers aren't forced to pay for this insult by rescinding all of the earmarks for Berkeley in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, and to transfer the funds to the Marine Corps."
A spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called DeMint's comments "just plain wrong."
"Sen. DeMint may not like what the Berkeley City Council has to say, but to punish the children, police, first responders and the university for something they had nothing to do with is just plain wrong," said Natalie Ravitz, the spokeswoman.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said the congresswoman would also fight any attempt to strip her district of funding.
"She's very focused on making sure federal funds are delivered to the district and support the programs that are needed in the district," said Cleve Messidor, who could not say whether Lee supported the council's action.
Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the school district, called DeMint's threat to pull $87,000 earmarked for the nutrition education program shameful.
"For somebody in the government, an elected official, to take away a program that's not only helping kids in Berkeley but is a model for kids across America, is just a travesty," Cooper said.
Staff writers Shelly Meron and Lisa Vorderbrueggen contributed to this story. Reach Doug Oakley at firstname.lastname@example.org