Berkeley's Marine Corps Recruiting Center Controversy

Protest by World Can't Wait and Code Pink

Berkeley, California, February 1, 2008

As noted in an earlier zombietime report, the radical group Code Pink has since September of 2007 been staging protests in front of a U.S. Marine Corps' "Officer Selection Office" on Shattuck Square in downtown Berkeley, California, in an attempt to force the office to close. The protests have been scheduled almost daily for over three months continuously, though bad weather (and apathy) have meant minimal (and sometimes nonexistent) attendence at many of these events -- which have ranged from "Kiss-Ins" to juggling performances to mass public breastfeedings and beyond.

Recently, however, the campaign to expel the Marines from Berkeley was given a fresh injection of energy when the Berkeley City Council voted on January 29 to give their official stamp of approval to the protest and even award Code Pink a complimentary dedicated personal parking space for their protest truck directly in front of the Marines' office. The City Manager was then instructed by the municipal government to send a letter to the Marines, informing them that they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in Berkeley.

Once word of this aggressively anti-military official act reached the outside world, conservative and pro-patriotic advocates were spurred to action, calling for condemnations of the city, boycotts of Berkeley businesses, counter-protests and more.

Most significantly, Senator Jim DeMint (R - South Carolina) began proceedings to prevent federal funds from reaching Berkeley; $2.1 million in earmarks for Berkeley are planned to be rescinded and instead given to the Marines.

Well, as you might imagine, this riled up the left-wing protesters even more, and on January 31, a much larger protest was held in the pouring rain. Activists announced their plan to redouble their efforts to expel the Marines at any cost, including daily protests until the Marines cried "Uncle" and fled the city.

Since I was fairly nearby on February 1 (attending an Obama campaign rally in Oakland featuring Ted Kennedy), I decided to stop by the Marines recruitment office to check out the action, since there was a break in the rain.

The following photographs were all taken on the afternoon of February 1, 2008. Unfortunately, I missed by only a few minutes the spectacle of the police arresting three protesters who had chained themselves to the door of the office -- but the pictures in this link tell that part of the story clearly enough.

The protesters festooned the front window of the office with simulated bloody handprints -- implying that the Marines have "blood on their hands."

The radical groups have learned from countless past incidents that actually defacing a business is a criminal act, so they've devised ways to achieve the same effect without causing permanent damage. Writing chalk messages on the sidewalk, for example, was determined by a judge to be "legal graffiti" since it can be easily washed away. And in this instance they applied the bloody handprints to a piece of Saran Wrap, which was then affixed to the window. Since it can be quickly removed, it doesn't count as vandalism.

If you're curious about the dedicated private parking space awarded to Code Pink, and want to see a picture of it: here it is! As far as I know, they are the only group (or individual) in Berkeley who now have their own private parking space on public city streets.

For today's protest, Code Pink's rather paltry battalions were beefed up by the even-more confrontational group World Can't Wait, a spinoff of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They set up an elaborate display of photos from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

The two groups, in theory, shouldn't necessarily get along -- one is a feminist anti-war club, the other a revolutionary Maoist cult -- but their mutual loathing for George W. Bush has repeatedly brought them together, and they generally work in tandem (or at least side-by-side) at most Bay Area political protests.

World Can't Wait has adopted the "Guantanamo orange" jumpsuit as their official uniform. Of course, their incessant use of it, coupled with their aggressive tactics, has brought an unintentional new association to the outfit. Now, whenever people in the Bay Area see someone in an orange jumpsuit, they no longer think, "Ah, those poor Guantanamo inmates"; now they think, "Oh no, it's those confrontational communists again!"

Code Pink has for months been encouraging women to bring their babies to the Marine Corps protests, frequently scheduling baby-themed events involving breastfeeding, circus acts, and so on. This young mom brought her infant to today's event, along with an anti-war sign attached to the baby-carriage.

A World Can't Waiter tried to introduce her to the glories of Maoism. The baby was having none of it.

In a bizarre coincidence (or was it?), considering that I had just come from an Obama campaign rally, a pro-Obama Volvo circled the block, perhaps sensing some sympathetic voters in the vicinity that might be influenced.

After the demonstration dissolved, and everyone packed up their stuff and left, a crew-cutted employee came out of the Marine Corps office with a hose and washed away all evidence of the protest. Good as new! Apparently this has become a daily ritual, because if you walk past the office any time in the late afternoon or evening, you will generally find no indication that there ever had been a protest at the site; and yet if you had walked by a few hours earlier, you would have seen dozens of protesters, chalked messages, and the general detritus of dissent. It seems that every evening, the Marines send out the Hose Brigade to erase any trace of the ideological struggle -- and the following day it starts all over again.

If you want to contact any of the parties mentioned in this essay, the end of this article has handy email addresses and phone numbers for the Berkeley City Council, Senator Jim DeMint, Code Pink, and the Marines.

To keep up-to-date with this ever-changing story, this Google news search will find the latest articles about Berkeley and Code Pink.

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