Pro-Troops Rally at Marines Recruiting Office

Berkeley, March 22, 2008

On March 22, 2008, a coalition of patriotic and veterans' groups held a large rally in front of Berkeley's "U.S. Marine Corps Officer Selection Office" (better known as the Marines recruiting office) in support of American troops and their missions.

This rally -- with at least 400 participants at any one time and probably well over 500 grand total -- was much larger than any of the previous anti-troop protests at the office organized by Code Pink or World Can't Wait, which usually range from less than ten people to perhaps 50 at most on a few rare occasions.

There has already been extensive coverage of this pro-troops event at various outlets, so I'll skip the blow-by-blow coverage of what happened, and instead simply present a selection of interesting photos and scenes from the day. For more detailed photo coverage, including background on how the event was organized, check out the reports at ProtestShooter, Eagles Up, and Michelle Malkin; also don't miss the essay written by co-organizer Melanie Morgan in the Canada Free Press. Mainstream media reports can be found in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times. Video reports about the rally were posted by ProtestShooter, gogoaraigumaPolitic, the Contra Costa Times, and ABC.

Now let's look at the event from my point of view.

Three highly decorated Navy veterans saluted during the playing of the national anthem as they stood in front of the recruiting center.

Hard to believe this scene took place in Berkeley, where children are generally taught to be ashamed of the United States.

Two Muslim Cal students wearing hijabs stopped to watch the action. And, contrary to the stereotypes of military supporters as being xenophobic and confrontational, no one said a harsh word to the students nor paid much attention to them whatsoever.

Because the event was held on two opposite sides of a traffic-clogged street, there was no easy way to take a single picture that captured the full extent of the rally. This was the best I could do. Curious about the size of the crowd, at one point I slowly walked up one side of the block and then down the other, counting every person along the way. I personally counted slightly over 400 people in attendance at that particular moment, but scores of people were constantly coming and going (generally to feed their parking meters or find new parking spaces), so if I had to estimate I'd say there were at least 500 people there, and probably more if you counted everyone who came throughout the day.

At one point the rally organizers called for a minute of silence and a prayer for the troops, and everyone stopped and bowed their heads -- especially the "Soldiers for Jesus" contingent seen here.

About an hour into the rally, Code Pink finally got wind of the event. When their truck pulled up nearby on University Avenue, a ripple passed through the crowd -- "Code Pink is here!" Several curious Marines supporters peered around the corner to get a first glimpe of their near-mythical ideological opponents.

The two Code Pink members in the truck barely had to time to exit the vehicle before they were surrounded by inquisitive veterans, many of whom had apparently never seen radical left-wing activists in person before.

After extricating herself from the crowd of onlookers, Code Pink leader Zanne Joi donned a hat which announced her as a self-appointed "Diplomat for Berkeley." Wait -- I don't remember there being an election for City Diplomat. Any Berkeley residents remember voting for Zanne Joi as "Diplomat for Berkeley"? Well, too bad, because now she speaks for you.

Then she proclaimed the intersection of Shattuck Square and University Avenue as "Dialogue Corner."

The mainstream media members there bought into her narrative and immediately began interviewing her.

Meanwhile, Melanie Morgan (shown here), who had spent weeks organizing the event and who had a permit and a sound system, was mostly ignored by the media. (The person seen videotaping her in this photo was in fact an anti-Marines activist who later posted his video on YouTube, disparaging the protesters as "a republican motorcycle gang.")

I climbed a nearby building to try to get an aerial shot of the rally, but even from on high was only able to capture some of the people on one side of the block.

Unlike at most left-wing rallies, there weren't a whole lot of signs -- most people were content to wave American flags. The few signs there were mostly like these -- straight to the point and unapologetically pro-American.

The patch on the right side of this picture was, to me, the most memorable one of the day.

Meanwhile, a few veterans took Code Pink up on their "Dialogue Corner" concept, and tried to engage Zanne Joi in discussions.

She tried, in vain, to explain to them her anti-war and left-wing views, but I didn't see her making any converts. A grand total of four Code Pink counter-protesters showed up, including the now famous Code Pink mascot seen in the center of this picture, wearing sunglasses.

One independent counter-protester showed up as well -- the same guy I had encountered a few days earlier protesting all by himself in front of the military recruiting center in San Francisco. He stood off to the side of the rally, holding up two flags -- one an American flag with corporate logos instead of stars, and the other a peace symbol -- and wearing a placard showing an Abu Ghraib photo.

He didn't stand unchallenged for long. After just a couple minutes, two military supporters positioned themselves on either side of him, and blotted out his message with an American flag and a Marines Corps flag.

The lone counter-protester wouldn't give up so easily, and began frantically waving his own flags in such a way that two people were not sufficient to neutralize him -- so little by little more people showed up and eventually engulfed the guy in a sea of American flags. But unlike at anti-war rallies, where patriotic protesters are often bullied and threatened and physically driven away, no one touched the counter-protester or tried to grab his flags or told him to leave.
[UPDATE: I received the following email from "Berkeley Peacenik," who claims to be the person shown in these pictures; I didn't personally witness any of what he describes, so I can't verify its accuracy, but I'll let him tell his version of the story in any case:
"I'm the guy you identified as the "lone counter-protester." I don't know your site well enough to know how much you really value truth, but you made an error when you wrote, "But unlike at anti-war rallies, where patriotic protesters are often bullied and threatened and physically driven away, no one touched the counter-protester or tried to grab his flags or told him to leave." I can't comment on what happens to "patriotic protesters" at "anti-war rallies," but your account of what happened to me is inaccurate: I was threatened by one man, who warned me to "be careful when I tried to leave" the area; I was bullied and physically driven away: the people engulfing me did crowd against me, and one woman held her picket sign up against my face so I couldn't see. I'd move occasionally to an open area, and they'd repeat their "engulfing." During one of these relocations, one guy tried to trip me and another tore the sign from around my neck. You also wrote, "The Berkeley police were on hand to protect the Marine recruiting office, but they basically had nothing to do: there was no violence or law-breaking of any kind, so the cops just stood around for the most part."ĘThe police had been watching the "pro-troop" folks "engulf" me, and they did step in when the guy tore the sign from around my neck. They refused to do anything about it initially, saying they were only worrying about physical harm to my person, but after I insisted, they took an official report on the matter. Unfortunately, by that time the guy had disappeared. If you want verification, I'll send you the police report number."]

The Berkeley police were on hand to protect the Marine recruiting office, but they basically had nothing to do: there was no violence or law-breaking of any kind, so the cops just stood around for the most part.

In fact, the Berkeley city "public safety officers" appeared to be sympathetic to the rally: when a fire truck drove by, one of the firemen gave the protesters the "thumbs up" sign.

But there was one branch of the municipal government that really had it in for the protesters: the meter maids! They waited in the wings, ready to hand out tickets to anybody who parked even vaguely illegally. Here, a passing Berkeley resident took the rare opportunity to give a piece of his mind to the least-popular law enforcement division in the city, and proceeded to chew out the meter maids.

Back on Dialogue Corner, the Code Pink mascot took center stage and began arguing with a veteran. He laughed and tried to take it all in good humor.

At once point he reached over and tried to pat her on the shoulder, saying something like, "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree"...

...but she took great offense at his gesture, and swatted his hand away, saying, "Don't you dare touch me!"

The brief tension did not escalate, however, and before long we were treated to an amazing rapprochement: a veteran shook hands with the leader of Code Pink! Looks like Dialogue Corner had worked its magic after all.

And in the most shocking scene of the entire day, he even shook hands with the Code Pink mascot, who actually allowed herself to be touched by a man -- and not just any man, but a veteran with a crucifix tattoo! An epochal moment, equal in significance to the Berlin Wall coming down.

Another Code Pink member waded into the crowd alone, and tried to engage individual veterans. From the silent expressions on people's faces, I have the feeling she met with little success.

Midway through the rally, one last counter-protester showed up sporting a shirt with a message in Farsi and an anti-Chevron sign, leftover from a protest at the refineries in Richmond a few weeks earlier.

She helped unveil a banner on Dialogue Corner that read, "You can't support the troops when you support the lies that kill them," which actually was pretty much the line that Zanne Joi was saying to the media all day (as revealed in some of the videos linked at the top of this report). Very quickly, two Marines demonstrated their opinion of the sign by choosing to wave their American flags directly in front of it.

In fact, waving flags was pretty much the primary activity at the rally.

A surprising (surprising for Berkeley, at least) number of passing cars honked in support.

The "Iron Souls" from Oakland showed up to express their solidarity with the veterans.

Some Native American veterans also joined in the rally, further undermining the ludicrous (but relentless) accusations of "racism" flung at the pro-military activists by the anti-war crowd.

There were young people at the rally as well -- who even went so far as to put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem. How very un-Berkeley of them!

A Harley-Davidson with a stuffed Marine Corps bulldog mascot -- a disorienting blend of macho and cutesy.

The protesters were still angry with the Berkeley City Council for supporting Code Pink, and some of the speakers called for a boycott of Berkeley -- at least until the City Council apologizes.

But the local businesses have found themselves caught in the middle of the conflict, since they don't necessarily support the City Council or Code Pink. Around the corner from the rally, one local restaurant was even brave enough to post a sign stating a political opinion not often seen in the city.

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