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Berkeley’s anti-Marine stance stirs outcry

Officials in the famously liberal California town of Berkeley have stirred an outcry by telling U.S. Marine Corps recruiters they aren't welcome anymore and by aiding those protesting against them.
/ Source: Reuters

Officials in the famously liberal California town of Berkeley have stirred an outcry by telling U.S. Marine Corps recruiters they aren't welcome anymore and by aiding those protesting against them.

That stance is too much for some Republican lawmakers, who are threatening to retaliate by stripping the counter-culture city of about $5.3 million in federal and state dollars.

"If the U.S. Marines are not good enough for Berkeley, neither are taxpayer dollars," Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said in a statement.

Last week, the Berkeley City Council agreed to send a letter to the Marines stating their recruiters were not welcome in the city and that those who stayed would be considered "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

The council also applauded people who "impede" the recruiters' work and awarded a free parking permit to Code Pink, an anti-war group that demonstrates daily outside the Marine recruiting office in the city.

Three of the group's supporters were arrested recently for chaining themselves to the office's entrance.

The Marine office is the only military recruiting center in the city. The Marines had no immediate comment on the city's move.

"It's pretty outrageous," state Assemblyman Guy Houston said in an interview. "They're allowing an organization to harass and abuse a storefront (office). ... Berkeley has to understand that there are ramifications."

Money could be withheld
Houston is preparing a bill to withhold $3.3 million in state transportation bond money from the city, and several senators have drafted a bill to deprive Berkeley of more than $2 million in federal funds.

The City Council will consider rescinding its letter on Tuesday, when pro-military and anti-war groups are planning to stage all-day protests outside City Hall.

Mayor Tom Bates is also urging a statement clarifying the city's support of U.S. troops despite its opposition to White House policy in Iraq.

Berkeley leaders have said they are just voicing the position of residents of the city, where sentiment against the Iraq war is strong now, as it has been in the past. The city and its university were hotbeds of protest against the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

Keeping with this activist tradition, the City Council passes many resolutions on U.S. foreign policy, usually to no effect.