In Face of Pressure From Opposing Protesters, Council Votes to Rescind Letter to Marines Center

Photo: Protestors from both sides were present outside the City Council chambers before the council met and inside once Tuesday's meeting began. Police reported that two adults and two juveniles were arrested over the course of the day in relation to the protests.
Tollef Biggs/Photo
Protestors from both sides were present outside the City Council chambers before the council met and inside once Tuesday's meeting began. Police reported that two adults and two juveniles were arrested over the course of the day in relation to the protests.

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After a large-scale protest outside City Council chambers that began early yesterday morning, the Berkeley City Council decided not to send an apology to the Marine Corps but rather to make clear their support for members of the military.

After more than two hours of public comment, the City Council decided in a 7-2 vote to clarify their support and respect for military service members but ultimately found no need to apologize to the Marine Corps for the language that described them as "unwelcome and uninvited intruders."

"I don't think we owe anyone an apology," said Councilmember Max Anderson.

Tonight's meeting comes after a vote two weeks ago by the City Council to send a controversial letter to the Marine Corps, as well as to offer Code Pink protestors a more permanent location outside the Downtown military recruiting center.

Councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Betty Olds voted against the clarification because it did not include the apology.

The final decision, which came early this morning, was received by applause and cheers by members of Code Pink, the anti-war organization that also was given a parking space to have a space to protest.

"I think they did the right thing. They clarified the language, they made it clear that they had no intention of offending the military," said Code Pink activist PhoeBe sorgen. "You can correct it without apologizing."

But some pro-military supporters say that even with the council's final decision, protesting the entire day was worth the time.

"It was definitely worth it. If I understand correctly, they voted not to do an apology-that's disgusting," said Debbie Lee, a resident of Surprise, Ariz. whose son was the first Navy Seal killed in Iraq. "The pressures will continue to be applied."

Over 100 speakers, both in favor of and against City Council's decisions last week, trickled into the chambers for several hours as city employees guided groups in from the outside, where they listened and responded to the meeting, which was audible on speakers outside the chambers.

State Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, also made an appearance after threatening last week to remove $3.3 million dollars in state funds for street maintenance.

Houston brought up the Solomon Act, which states that if a city restricts access to military recruitment to colleges and universities, federal dollars can be stripped, he said.

"There is precedent with this (and) we intend to go forward with this bill," he said.

Security was tightened last night as barricades were set up at the bottom steps of the city chambers, separating the anti-war protestors from the pro-military side.

After council members received more than 20,000 phone calls and e-mails in the past two weeks, police guarded doors and the entrance to the chambers.

Local business officials said they were unhappy about the negative effects Code Pink protests were having on their business.

"You made the wrong decision on this," said Mark McCloud, the president of the Downtown Business Association. "I urge you to rescind the resolution you made."

Wozniak said an apology should be made since the council's decisions last week were insulting to the Marines.

"I think we have failed our city and embarrassed our city," he said. "... We did not ask our citizens whether they agreed with this. We did not ask people locally whether they wanted the Marines. We did it in a sense of arrogance, and I think that's what we should apologize to our citizens for."


Jane Shin covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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