Businesses Organize to Promote Peace

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After some calls for boycotts of Berkeley in response to the city's stance against Marine Corps recruiters, a new business coalition met yesterday to begin formalizing their plans to help businesses that support peace.

The 35 businesses that currently compose Berkeley Businesses for Peace, ranging from a yoga studio to a law office, have pledged to work against recent boycotts by supporting a pro-peace consumer community.

"This is all part of Berkeley's vision that you can do business that's worker-friendly, environmentally sound and promoting peace," said Medea Benjamin, a founding member of both the business organization and the anti-war group Code Pink. She is also the founder of Global Exchange, a fair trade gift store on College Avenue.

The organizers of Berkeley Businesses for Peace have not yet cemented their plans and association structure. But so far, they have proposed to create window decals and organize a Summer of Hope festival this July.

On Jan. 29, the City Council granted Code Pink a parking spot to protest in front of the Downtown Berkeley Marine recruiting center and condemned the center's recruiters, calling them "uninvited and unwelcome" in the city.

This decision garnered national attention, causing the City Council to withdraw their statement, although the council has not responded to calls for an apology.

According to Ted Garrett, chief executive officer of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the city has received more than 800 communications warning that people will no longer be shopping or using services in Berkeley.

"It's difficult to assess any kind of impact," Garrett said. "But people have called restaurants and hotels and cancelled specifically because of the City Council's actions."

Most recently, on March 22, pro-military organization Eagles Up sent more than 400 motorcyclists to Berkeley who proceeded to spend all their money outside the city.

"We hit their wallets to get their attention," said retired Marine Corps Sgt. Major Doug Lyvere, the West Region coordinator of Eagles Up.

Benjamin said that, although the association was not formed in response to the boycotts, it was inspired by them.

"It's broad, it's positive, it's about peace," she said. "It's not a political, not an activist organization."

Berkeley Businesses for Peace has denied any direct affiliation with Code Pink, but Garrett said otherwise. According to him, representatives of Code Pink visited him explaining the business association.

In addition, many influential members of Berkeley Businesses for Peace, like Benjamin, have strong ties to Code Pink as well.

While Garrett said that this "Buy Berkeley" promotion could help local businesses, he warned that making a political statement has the potential to alienate customers.

"Keep your politics close to your chest and focus on your business," he said.


Contact Rebecca Wallace at [email protected]

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