Berkeley City Council to Revisit Vote Against Marine Recruiting Station

Two weeks after the Berkeley City Council called U.S. Marine Corps recruiters "uninvited and unwelcome intruders," the council is expected to reconsider its anti-Marine stance Tuesday night.

Large crowds from the left and right are mobilizing for the meeting. The anti-war feminist group Code Pink began a 24-hour "peace-in" Monday night, and the pro-war group Move America Forward planned a day-long demonstration outside City Hall.

The Rev. Fred Phelps, the anti-gay activist and founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, will be there as well, demonstrating against both the Marines and Code Pink. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church routinely picket at the funerals of American soldiers killed in action.

Code Pink activist Zanne Joi said her group is "supporting the troops by being against war and against recruiting."

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"It’s because we care about these people that we are standing up against the war machine," Joi said.

On Jan. 29, the city council approved a resolution that included letters to the Marines advising them that their recruiting station is unwelcome in Berkeley. It also called for an investigation into whether the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for homosexuals violated city anti-discrimination policy.

Other portions of the resolution applauded residents who "volunteer to impede" the work of the Marines, and gave Code Pink a parking space directly in front of the Marines' office from noon to 4 p.m. every Wednesday for six months, as well as waiving the fee for a sound permit.

That decision sparked a nationwide outrage, calls to withhold government funding for the city, and an apology and clarification from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

On Tuesday, the council will hear from Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds, two council members who are sponsoring a revised resolution that will ask the city not to send a letter to the Marine Corps saying it's unwelcome in Berkeley.

The resolution would reiterate the city's opposition to the Iraq war, while clarifying Berkeley's support of the nation's military servicemembers.

In a joint press statement, Capitelli and Olds said: “We failed to make it clear that while we continue to oppose what we consider an unethical and illegal war in Iraq, at the same time we respect and honor all the brave men and women who are serving or have served in the military … We have erred by not adequately differentiating between the war and the warriors.”

Capitelli and Olds also said in the press statement: “The recommendation to inform the Marine Corps recruiting office that they are not welcome in our city, was insulting, hurtful and wrong.”

The council's initial Marine Corps motions prompted a backlash from lawmakers in California's capital, Sacramento, and Washington. There have been calls to withhold state and federal funds — including $2 million in federal money earmarked for ferry service and school lunches, among other things — as well as an apology from Berkeley's mayor.

"Let me be absolutely clear that this is not about the men and women who are serving our country in our armed forces," Mayor Bates said on Feb. 1. "I am a retired U.S. Army Captain and I respect the choice of those who are serving our country.

"However, this community strongly opposes the war in Iraq and the foreign policy of the current administration."

He added: "I understand that there are people across the country that may not agree with this action, but it is the Berkeley City Council's responsibility to represent the will of the people of Berkeley."

That argument didn't fly with California Assemblyman Guy Houston, a Republican, who asked last week that $3.3 million in state transportation funds be suspended until the council rescinds its resolution.

"The Marines, and all of our branches of the military, deserve the honor of our elected officials, not their scorn," Houston said.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, Berkeley politicians will also consider measures that would condemn the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border as well as a request to Canadian leaders to grant sanctuary for U.S. war resisters.