Police Estimate 2,000 Protestors Gathered to Support Both Sides in Marine Center Dispute

Photo: Police monitor protesters in front of the City Council chambers before a vote to reconsider a controversial 
resolution against the Marines 
recruiting center.
Nathan Yan/Staff
Police monitor protesters in front of the City Council chambers before a vote to reconsider a controversial resolution against the Marines recruiting center.

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Photo: Skye Van Valkenburgh, a junior at Berkeley High School, holds up a sign in support of the military.   Photo: Berkeley High School freshman Sonia Mena argues with Navy veteran Don Werstler.   

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Activists from around the Bay Area and across the country were drawn to Berkeley yesterday in a day-long protest as part of the backlash from the Berkeley City Council's stance against the Downtown Marine Corps recruiting center.

The protestors, which police estimate numbered as many as 2,000, gathered in front of the City Council chambers, the street and a portion of the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, where the day was spent alternating between singing and physical confrontations.

The two sides-pro-military protestors and peace activists, including national anti-war organization Code Pink-entrenched themselves on either side of Martin Luther King Jr. Way with an array of banners, flags and loud speakers to await the council's 7 p.m. meeting.

The City Council met last night to revisit a controversial resolution which included calling the Marines "unwelcome and uninvited intruders." While the letter against the Marines was retracted, they did not send an apology.

Two weeks ago, the City Council decided to allow Code Pink to skip the bureaucratic process involved in staging a protest and supply them with a parking spot in front of the center.

Camaraderie was easily established among pro-military activists despite their various backgrounds, said Vietnam veteran Erik Freeman of Bakersfield.

"We all have the same set of values," he said.

Some peace activists said they were surprised by the arrival of so many people from out of town.

Code Pink organizer Zanne Joi said that she hopes protesting will save Berkeley's youth from risking themselves as soldiers for what she said was an unjust cause.

Confrontation occurred when protestors crossed boundaries set by police officers in an attempt to debate their counterparts.

As many as 100 police officers worked to keep the protest peaceful. Officers from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and Oakland Police Department provided reinforcement.

Police reported that two juveniles and two adults were arrested during yesterday's events.

Despite a few physical altercations and rumors of flag burning, many protestors spent their time debating each other.

As the meeting approached, the most devoted members of each side lined up to speak in front of the City Council. However, the 123-person capacity of the chamber came nowhere near accommodating the public demand for seats in the chamber.

At the protest, State Assemblymember Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, announced he will still move forward with his plan to withhold $3.3 million in state funds from the city of Berkeley.

"(The City Council's) involvement with Code Pink is poisoning whatever good intentions they may have," he said.

Wearing a United States Marine Corps shirt, Berkeley High School senior Ryan Eyges said he is against the war but is planning on enlisting in the military next year.

He said that the Marine recruiting center is not an appropriate symbol for protestors who are against the war but support the soldiers.

"The protest should go somewhere else," he said. "A better symbol of the war, like (Washington), D.C."

The majority of the crowd had dissipated when the council made their decision at 1:30 this morning.


Contact Asaf Shalev at [email protected]

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