February 14, 2008

Berkeley Anti-Recruitment Report

Sent in by World Can't Wait:
Demonstration to Shut Down Marine Recruiting, February 12 2008
Tuesday night, February 12, the Berkeley City Council voted not to send a letter to the Marine Corps telling them their new recruiters, near Berkeley High School, "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders." The Council had received 24,000 messages, reportedly mostly favorable to their stand, but also a great storm of protest on right-wing blogs. Republican politicians in California, and US Senators threatened to take away funds for education and transportation projects in Berkeley, and vilified the Council for being against the war. The Council refused to apologize to the Marines, however, and reaffirmed its stand against the Iraq war and occupation.
Protest started Monday in Berkeley with an overnight vigil supporting the Council's stand in front of City Hall. World Can't Wait activists described the scene as "cool. Activists from Code Pink and World Can't Wait, were singing, making banners, talking all night." There was some good controversy about how to talk about the troops over a banner that the Revolution Club made, saying, "What are they recruiting for? Murder? Rape? Torture?" A theme all day was whether the US military is committing war crimes, while World Can't Wait held photos showing atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
At 5am Tuesday, pro-war protesters called Move America Forward began arriving. They were pushing and shoving, and the police separated the anti and pro-war sides with MLK Drive. The pro-war group, numbering in the dozens during the day, covered a location that skateboarders regularly use. Media reports that the kids were harassing the pro-war group only because they were pushed out are contradicted by World Can't Wait activists who say the skateboarders argued with them over politics.
A 10:30 am press conference organized by Code Pink featured Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Giovanni Jackson from World Can't Wait, Ann Wright, and an Army veteran recently released from active duty.
A core of Berkeley High School students were involved in the anti-war protests all day. They texted friends inside the school, and at lunch, a "wave" of 700 students poured out of the school and flowed in a noisy wave over to the anti-war group. There they got signs, t shirts and, because someone made a donation on the spot, hundreds of orange bandanas were given out.
A high school administrator told the students they were being "used" by the protesters, which led the students to get on the bullhorn and speak with great intensity about why they were joining the protest. An immoral war and torture are in their future if it's not stopped. But organizers also heard from Berkeley HS teachers who supported the antiwar protest, who had already led discussions with their students. Teachers from an art school nearby sent their students to sketch the scene.
The students went over to the pro-war group, and there was a political confrontation between the red/white/blue flag waving, medal-wearing older crowd, and the high school kids who asked how they could defend the war. Arguments broke out all over. The Berkeley police came out in riot gear, their backs to the pro-war crowd, telling the students to back off. The police used their batons to move the students back, and they slowly stepped backward, but did not turn and leave or scatter. Suddenly, they "died" to represent the million+ Iraqis killed in the occupation.
World Can't Wait activists report the police were rough. One person got a broken rib; another a broken finger. Kids were dragged out of larger groups by police. Many students stayed out of school for the afternoon. Two boys aged 13 and 15 were arrested, and by late afternoon a group of 300 gathered in front on the police station to demand the kids' release. More riot police fronted the building and violently cleared the steps with batons, arresting an 18 year old woman who was arguing for the release of her brother. As older antiwar activists arrived after the work day, a rally formed in front of the police station. They chanted "This is what a police state looks like!"
The students were released on Tuesday.
For Move America Forward’s interpretation of today’s events, go here:
Berkeley Code Pink Out-Gunned By Move America Forward Pro-Troop Supportershttp://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=berkeley2.12.08.htm

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