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February 13, 2008
Berkeley Backs Down on Marine Office
The Berkeley City Council voted last night to rescind a controversial letter to the Marine recruiting office where they referred to the office and the Marines manning it as "unwelcome intruders:"
The backdown became apparent late Tuesday night when Mayor Tom Bates and three council members aligned themselves with the two who called on the council last week to rethink its position. There were several confrontations between pro and anti Marine protestors resulting in several arrests. In addition, Code Pink vowed to put a measure on the ballot to kick the Marines out of the city:
The January decision created a firestorm of criticism across the nation from people who called the council's position on the Marines harsh and inappropriate. Others cheered the council as courageous.
Berkeley's critics included six Republican U.S. senators who have vowed to cut federal funding for several Berkeley programs, such as the Chez Panisse Foundation, which provides school lunches at Berkeley's public schools, and the Robert Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at UC Berkeley.
Council members maintained that they were not caving in to pressure from right-wing bloggers or radio-show hosts in backing away from their January vote.
Code Pink activists said that even with the council backing off, they intend to place a resolution on the local ballot to oust the recruiters. The pro-troop demonstrations were organized by Move America Forward who also initiated a petition drive to get the council to rescind the letter.
"We want voters to be able to decide ... just like they have a say whether a liquor store or porn shop opens near a school," said Jodie Evans, a Berkeley yoga studio owner who co-founded Code Pink. Evans, wearing a pink crown that said "I Miss America," sat on a lawn chair outside of City Hall in the chilly night air listening to testimony from the meeting inside, which was being broadcast to the hundreds who couldn't fit inside the building.
Iraq war veteran Javier Tenorio of Berkeley was also listening outside of City Hall. The former Army infantryman who served two tours of duty called the ballot proposal "ridiculous."
"Even if they achieve it, it's going to be voted down," Tenorio said. "There are enough people in Berkeley who support the military, including university Republicans. We're going to beat this."