If you want to get a seat at Tuesday night's
Berkeley City Council meeting, you better start lining up now. And you might want to bring earplugs. And a flak jacket.
Hundreds of protesters from across the country
and the political spectrum are expected to descend on City Hall with bullhorns, drums, banners and plenty of vitriol in anticipation
of the City Council's debate over the Marines' recruiting station in town.
The ruckus started last week when the council
voted to send a letter to the Marines, calling them "unwanted intruders" for opening the recruiting center on Shattuck Avenue
last year. At the same time, the council granted Code Pink a parking space and a sound permit to make it easier for the peace
group to conduct protests outside the center.
On Monday, Councilwomen Betty Olds and Laurie
Capitelli introduced an item for this week's meeting, asking the city to retract its statements about the Marines and clarify
that the city is against the war, not against the armed forces.
"We're starting to get people coming in
from all over the U.S.," said Catherine Moy, executive director of Move America Forward, one of several pro-military groups
planning an all-day protest Tuesday at Maudelle Shirek City Hall. "People are pretty upset. We want to avoid clashes, but
it could be really, really big. We don't really know what's going to happen."
Peace groups, disgusted that the council
would cave in to pressure from the pro-military groups, plan to host their own rally, an "emergency 24-hour peace-in vigil,"
complete with singing, drums and dialogue.
"We want to protect our city from the onslaught
of the right wing," said Code Pink spokeswoman Zanne Joi. "We're facing people who are willing to kill or send other people's
children to kill to get what they want. We understand the reality of that, and we're prepared to face that in a nonviolent
The city's statement about the Marines immediately
ignited an uproar from conservative, pro-military and pro-war factions around the country. A South Carolina senator introduced
a bill rescinding $2 million in federal funding for Berkeley. The Semper Fi Act of 2008 would transfer Berkeley's money to
the Marine Corps.
City officials were deluged with hundreds
of irate e-mails, some containing death threats. Moy said her group got so many e-mails its Web site crashed.
Both sides will be protesting at Tuesday's
meeting. Code Pink and its allies plan to camp out on the lawn at City Hall beginning at 7 p.m. Monday, while Move America
Forward, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other pro-military groups plan to rally at Martin Luther King Jr.
Park across the street starting at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
"Maybe we should do a reality TV episode,"
said Mayor Tom Bates. "But in some ways it's good we're debating the war. Iraq has sort of been pushed aside lately because
of the economy. The trick, though, is to focus the debate on the right issues."
More police, fire and paramedics will be
working that night, and the city is holding a meeting Monday afternoon with representatives from all the protest groups to
establish the ground rules.
"We want to ensure the safety of the public,
city staff and City Council," said Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel. "We expect that everyone will protest peacefully,
but we want to be safe."
The city has not yet decided whether to
move the meeting to a larger room or install metal detectors.
The council plans to start the Marines debate
at 9 p.m. Members of the public can address the council for one minute each, but the comment period can continue indefinitely.
Officials expect a long night.
On Fourth Street Friday morning, nearly
everyone had an opinion about the issue. And in typical Berkeley fashion, no one agreed.
"I am absolutely incensed," said Cheryl
Tolman, a 12-year Berkeley resident. "It's outrageous that the City Council is trying to close the Marines office down and
let these total radicals protest there. This is supposed to be the city of free speech."
Donna Bell, a musician, also thought it's
a free-speech issue.
"I can't believe there'd be these threats
of retaliation from the federal government," she said. "Asking the Marines to leave is really a statement about the war, and
Berkeley should be able to do that."
Mehdi Hussain, an apartment manager originally
from Fiji, said the Marines should be able to stay in Berkeley.
"They should have a right to be here," he
said. "I don't see why Berkeley should be such a holier-than-thou city. But Berkeley's always been that way."
See what readers say. E2
The Berkeley City Council meets
at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Maudelle Shirek City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. The Marines issue will be discussed
at 9 p.m. See the agenda at links.sfgate.com /ZCJX
E-mail Carolyn Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope the mayor gets what he deserves.
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Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military,
under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer
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