(These photos were taken in Berkeley on February 12, 2008 at Civic Center Park and in front of the City Hall building, at the protest and counter-protest over the decision by the Berkeley City Council to support Code Pink's attempt to expel the Marine Corps recruiting office from Berkeley. If you're looking for Part 1, click here.)
Much has been written, on both sides of the political aisle, about the behavior of the Berkeley police at the February 12 protest. Melanie Morgan complained that the police refused to protect her pro-America supporters from harassment by the anti-Marines crowd. Meanwhile, naturally, the left-wing protesters screamed "Police brutality!" at the slightest provocation all day long, and fumed about it afterward in numerous online postings, such as this YouTube video. So, the police had criticisms coming at them from both sides of the aisle.
Who was right? Well, in my opinion, neither side was. The cops seemed to be doing the best they could in an extremely difficult situation, and are compelled to follow clearly spelled out rules of engagement. They have decades of experience dealing with political protests, which can be chaotic and messy. Left-wing radical groups go to great lengths in their attempts to provoke over-zealous police tactics -- for the very purpose of later claiming police brutality. Furthermore, the police must fear draconian penalties handed down by the city's "progressive"-dominated Police Review Board. As a result, the Berkeley cops must walk a fine line, but if anything err on the side of caution -- which Melanie Morgan misinterpreted as sympathy for the left-wing protesters.
Midway through the protest the police arrested two young students, and I happened to snap pictures of almost every step in the process. View the following series of images and judge for yourself if the police were either unnecessarily abusive toward the radical protesters (as the left-wingers claim) or overly sympathetic to the radical protesters (as Melanie Morgan claims). As the essay unfolds, you'll see the kind of insanity the cops had to cope with, as the radical protesters laid siege to the police headquarters itself!
After witnessing at very close range what the Berkeley police must endure, I pretty much reserve all my sympathy for them in this particular instance.
(Below the following photo montage about the arrests and siege, the report continues with more pictures!)
The incident seemed to start when a fracas broke out between some of the high school students and a small group of Marines supporters. One of the students lost his cool, threatening to become violent, and had to be physically restrained by his friends.
The confrontation spun off into various peripheral arguments, including this one involving the original hotheaded boy and a blond 15-year-old World Can't Wait acolyte, who faced off against a twentysomething opponent.
I missed the actual moment of violence, but apparently the blond kid either took a swing at the older guy (according to the police) or put up his arms to defend himself (according to the boy's friends). Either way, the police felt his actions necessitated his arrest and removal from the scene, to prevent further incidents. They restrained him and told him they were taking him to the police station across the street. He still had something of a smirk on his face as they put him in handcuffs.
They first placed plastic zip-cuffs on his wrists...
...but then used real metal cuffs as they led him to the station, which was just across the street.
The cops had barely taken 20 steps with the arrestee when the World Can't Wait instigators descended on them, screaming about police brutality (where? I didn't see any) and demanding the boy's immediate release.
Meanwhile, behind us, another argument had spun out of control, and this time a 13-year-old was arrested, also for being involved in some kind of fight. Here is he protesting his innocence as the cops lead him to the station, followed by an ever-growing crowd of fellow protesters.
The World Can't Wait agitator pranced around the arresting officers, yelling insults, proclaiming victimhood, and trying his darnedest to provoke them into an over-reaction.
The smirk had evaporated off the boy's face as they neared the station and the reality of his predicament started sinking in.
The police marched him along in textbook style -- I could see no abuse.
By the time they got to the front door of the police station and escorted him inside, an antagonistic crowd was already waiting for them. The police had to tell them to back off.
People tried to rush the door, screaming "Let them go!"
Word quickly spread throughout the park about the arrests, and in a flash the other students ran toward the police station to rescue the arrested boys, who (naturally) were presumed to be innocent victims of police cruelty.
Within minutes there were dozens of young protesters swarming the front steps of the police headquarters. When a Marines supporter showed up as well and told everyone to calm down, they turned on him.
Medea Benjamin (upper left) and the World Can't Wait rabble-rousers instructed the children to "occupy" the station in a sit-down strike. Everyone dutifully obeyed. The police began to get nervous and deployed a row of officers in front of the door.
As more and more protesters descended on the station, police reinforcements were summoned back from their assignment in the park, to help defend the headquarters from a mob that was growing more unruly by the minute.
The cops then told everyone they were blocking access to a public building and ordered them off the stairs. The swelling crowd of protesters retreated a few steps back but continued their verbal threats and demands for "justice."
Eventually the police were able to establish a defensible perimeter around the headquarters building. By this time the central focus of the entire protest had now shifted to the unfolding scene in front of the police station.
Tensions ran high. Testosterone-fueled adolescent rage ran up against highly trained steely police resolve.
Medea Benjamin -- drawn to anti-authoritarian mob scenes like a moth to a flame -- consulted with her fellow Code Pinkers as how to best take advantage of the situation.
And of course, it wouldn't be a proper police station siege without a little banjo music!
Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin took time out from their demagoguery to grace the media with interviews.
The crowd of (mostly) teens tried every route to get into the building, but the police were having none of it.
At the height of the siege, hundreds of people surrounded police headquarters. The police were forced to retreat to a defensive perimeter around their own building.
And then...nothing. Despite the howls of outrage, the chants, and the demands for the release of the prisoners, the police held their ground. Like a stone wall. As happened over and over throughout the day, the protesters would get bored with any confrontation that had come to a standstill. So, little by little, people would hear some other fracas in the distance and go investigate it. The crowd, having nothing further to achieve, eventually lost interest in the siege and wandered away to other brewing confrontations.
I returned to the station half an hour later and the crisis was essentially over. The police maintained their perimeter with a skeleton crew, but the crowd had diminished to a handful of diehards.
And thus ended The Great Berkeley Police Headquarters Siege of 2008.
My assessment: I saw neither brutality nor favoritism on the part of the police, who seemed to act as professionally as possible, considering the circumstances. Let it be noted that in most other jurisdictions, the police would have handled a siege of their own headquarters much more "pro-actively" and aggressively, by cracking a few heads and loading everyone into paddy wagons. But the Berkeley police were a model of restraint. Now, you may be of the opinion that they were too restrained, and that they should have cracked heads to teach the protesters a lesson, but in the political climate of Berkeley, that behavior would result in lawsuits, firings, commission hearings and scandal. So I think the police handled the situation admirably, taking all things into consideration.
Related to the arrests and seige was this additional incident that happened right in the middle of the action: click on the video above to watch as the teenagers confront, threaten, and then chase down the street a member of the San Francisco State College Republicans; violence seems to be brewing until the cops intervene and drive back the attackers -- who, naturally, scream "Police brutality!" and "We're just kids!", with one of them even breaking down in tears at how the police prevented her from dispensing mob justice on her ideological opponent. Several protesters start chanting "This what a police state looks like!", while another says, "Fuck the motherfuckin' police! And I hope y'all niggers hear me!" which starts cries of "Fuck the police!" near and far. Medea Benjamin then gets into the act and starts leading the kids in a newer, larger seige of the police headquarters.
After witnessing these events first-hand, any lingering sympathy I might have had for the teenaged protesters evaporated.
And now...for the rest of the photos!
From here on out there is no "narrative" -- just a collection of random interesting images from the day. Which, actually, is how it should be, since the protest itself had no universally agreed-upon central theme. It was a Rashomon kind of day -- everyone seems to have their own version of what happened. So what better way to simulate the experience of being there than presenting exactly what you would have seen if you had been there yourself -- a chaotic jumble of unrelated scenes assaulting your senses.
Yes, Truthers showed up as well, with that unnerving glaze in their eyes that Truthers always seem to have.
Some of the Marines supporters made the mistake of engaging the Truthers in conversation. Which, as you might guess, was a complete waste of time. As someone once said: You can't reason someone out of a position they were never reasoned into to begin with.
Give a fool a megaphone and he feels the taste of power. The entire day went by and I never heard a single cogent argument or valid logical point being made by any of the aggressive World Can't Wait student protesters.
For example, in this video, after students tell a Marines supporter to leave, he points out that he has a right to protest, because he obtained a protest permit from the city -- and the students' brilliant rebuttal is to mock him:
Man: Hey, you know what? I got a permit to be here. You don't.
Boy #1 off-camera: We don't need one.
Girl: It don't matter.
Man: Yeah, it does matter. It does matter, it does matter. We went to the city and got a permit. That's how come we have microphones. That's how come we have music. We have a permit to be here.
Boy #1 [clapping and laughing]: Mmmmm, get a permit!
Boy #2: Oooh, oooh, got you a permit!
Now that's a brilliant counter-argument!
The one accusation most frequently hurled by the children at the Marines supporters was that they were "racist" -- based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. This is what gets drilled into these kids' heads in school every day by the indoctrinators and brainwashers who in earlier eras were known as "teachers." But of course, the Marines supporters came in all colors...
...and race had nothing whatsoever to do with anyone's feelings for America. Patriots are patriots, and it doesn't matter what color your skin is. But such a concept is lost on the unfortunate children. Because they have been taught that any non-Marxist way of thinking is, by definition, "racism."
Try telling that to this guy.
Or this guy.
This video shows some of the race-baiting that was going on. Unfortunately, the audio is very rough and it's hard to pick out what's being said. In the scene, an African-American anti-military radical accuses a hapless Marines supporter of being a racist, and says that the Marines supporter disagrees with the speaker "because I'm black," then when the Marines supporter protests his innocence, the radical continues on to say, "You look more like a bigot...that must be you," based on apparently no evidence whatsoever. This method of automatically "winning" any argument through accusing your opponent of racism, with no facts to support the accusation, is commonplace in Berkeley.
Of course, there were plenty of "rednecks" -- in this instance, a man with a red neck -- on the pro-military side as well. But it was the rednecks who didn't "judge a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character." Which is a lesson these misguided children need to learn (after they unlearn their indoctrination into identity politics).
At one point, a crew of Harley-riding Vietnam vets decided to take a foray into enemy territory, and scout out the Code Pink side of the street. First they made a stop at the World Can't Wait booth, and seemed genuinely bewildered by the communist slogans and America-bashing. Like, "Are these guys serious?"
Then they ventured into the Code Pink tent city, where they encountered the Code Pink spokesclown.
One of them looked around as if to say, "Help me out here, folks! Am I dreaming?"
Medea Benjamin and her bodyguard (or whatever she is) came over to monitor the situation. Medea then appointed herself as tour guide for the vets, I guess to make sure they didn't hang around too long.
She led them on a quick tour of the left-wing side of the street -- quite an odd sight to see! But the vets were respectful, and had no intention of causing a fracas. Just curious.
Speaking of odd couples: Here, one of the vets has a chat with a Code Pink lady (notice her slippers) who has crossed over into vet territory. I don't imagine that it was love at first sight, but perhaps we're seeing the beginning of detente?
Remember that banjo player? Turns out he was not so innocuous after all. He later got into furious arguments with the pro-military side.
When he wasn't strumming folksy ditties, he was screaming abusive tirades. A complicated man.
Jack Nicholson showed up as well to scream at the Marines. (Not really, but damn that's a close resemblance.)
Will this be remembered forevermore as "The Battle of Berkeley"?
But seriously, I feel that both sides were in fact using the day's demonstration as a proxy for a real battle. The retired vets wish they could fight against real terrorists; and the leftists wish they could attack real American soldiers in the field. So they faced off against each other in a pretend war, each happy to be the substitute for the other side's villain. They need each other. A rare case of antagonistic symbiosis!
Yup -- my theory is confirmed.
As evening fell, things became extra-double-special confusing, as a massive contingent of union members showed up to protest a completely unrelated item on the City Council's agenda. Everyone mistakenly assumed they were there for the Code Pink event, but no one could figure out what side they were on.
There were hundreds of them -- and they took up a prime spot right in the middle of the protest. Chaos reigned for a while. Were they pro-military? Anti-military? "Their signs make no sense!" In the end, it was determined that the union members had no opinion whatsoever about Code Pink and the Marines. But not before they gave everybody a little scare.
ANSWER just loves Smedley Butler. He gives heft to their anti-capitalist fantasies!
Berkeley has never seen the likes of this proud woman before!
Ah, now we're back on familiar ground. This is what a Berkeley protest sign is supposed to be like.
I'd be sad too if fashion fads dictated that I must wear a kaffiyeh if I wanted to be accepted by my peers. So much baggage, so little understanding.
Well, whaddya know -- Richard Becker, a communist firebrand and one of the top organizers for ANSWER, showed up. Inspecting the troops, I imagine.
Code Pink founder Jodie Evans must have given a hundred interviews -- I rarely saw her without a microphone in the vicinity.
On and on, the war games raged, from early morning til after midnight.
Blunt and concise. That's what I like to see in a sign.
On the other hand...deranged and incomprehensible is not going to win many converts.
Speaking of incomprehensible....Here is exactly the kind of protest sign that one always ends up seeing at Berkeley protests. Somewhere, there's a brain for which this sign served a purpose. Scary, isn't it?
"The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...."