Code Pink Stages Mock Debate at Marines Center

Intended Debate Turns Into Rally After Counterpoint Backs Out

Photo: Medea Benjamin, national co-founder of Code Pink, speaks to a crowd of onlookers at a mock debate yesterday outside of the Marine recruitment center on Shattuck Avenue.
Nathan Yan/Staff
Medea Benjamin, national co-founder of Code Pink, speaks to a crowd of onlookers at a mock debate yesterday outside of the Marine recruitment center on Shattuck Avenue.

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A local activist group drew a crowd of 50 onlookers yesterday when they staged a mock debate against a military recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley.

Although conservative radio talk show host Melanie Morgan was originally scheduled to participate, she was ultimately replaced by a member of activist group Code Pink pretending to espouse conservative views.

Issues ranged from the congressional race between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan to the military presence in Berkeley.

"We are the defenders of democracy, the upholders of the Constitution," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink. "If it weren't for people like the people in Berkeley, standing up for what they believe, we'd be living under Hitler."

Without an opposing voice present, members of Code Pink and other activist groups including The World Can't Wait, Middle East Children's Alliance and Veterans for Peace, turned the debate into an anti-war protest.

Marine recruiters did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Morgan, an early-morning conservative talk show host on KSFO, initially agreed to the debate based on certain conditions but ultimately refused, citing Code Pink's ulterior political aims in inviting her to speak.

Her conditions included a neutral moderator and the participation of other military supporters, including a marine recruiter, a veteran and another radio personality. Once Morgan found out that the other invitees, including the military recruiter, had backed out, she said she decided not to participate.

"I wouldn't walk into a situation that was completely stacked for a political view which in my perspective is indefensible," Morgan said.

But Code Pink organizer Zanne Joi said Morgan's demands were not made explicit and would have been met.

The debate follows Tuesday's City Council decision to grant Code Pink a parking spot in front of the military recruitment center on Shattuck Avenue, facilitating the ongoing protests.

Another resolution passed by the City Council directed the city manager to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps informing them that they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in Berkeley.

PhoeBe sorgen, a Code Pink activist and member of the city's Peace and Justice Commission, said the resolutions were supportive of the group's continued resistance and showed the city was taking an official stand against the center.

Code Pink has staged protests against the center on Shattuck every Wednesday since Sept. 26.

At the debate, local activists and Code Pink members also promoted a proposed initiative for the November elections that would require the center to obtain a special use permit to remain in Berkeley.

Yesterday's debate was only one of many steps to remove the recruitment center from Berkeley, Joi said.

"We'll be here as long as they're here," she said.


Contact Kelly Fitzpatrick at [email protected]

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