Click photo to enlarge
A Code Pink protester with a George W. Bush mask shouts slogans at a group of counter-demonstrators who set up shop in front of a U.S. Marines recruiting center on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007. (D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune)
BERKELEY — Flag-waving demonstrators far outnumbered a group of peace advocates who were protesting a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting center in downtown Berkeley on Wednesday.

But groups on both sides of Shattuck Avenue slowed traffic and jammed sidewalks as they shouted back and forth at each other.

Police kept the two competing groups across the street from each other and there were no arrests.

One protester who was burning something was cited by police after he was warned by officers not to burn anything in public, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

Protests in Berkeley are nothing new, but a protest against a protest is unique — even in Berkeley.

On one side of the street were CodePINK, Grandmothers Against the War, Berkeley East Bay Gray Panthers, Women in Black and other peace groups holding "no war" signs and chanting "out of Iraq."

On the other were military veterans, mothers and fathers of soldiers, members of the University of California, Berkeley, College Republicans and Melanie Morgan, whose conserva

tive talk show airs on KSFO. They waved American flags and chanted "USA, USA, USA."

But at times it was difficult to hear what either group was saying because each was trying to drown out the other as men on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and frustrated motorists gunned their engines on the street between the groups.

"This is 2007 and we supportour troops.


Advertisement

We are not going to let CodePINK disgrace our military heroes," yelled Deborah Johns, a Granite Bay woman whose 23-year-old son is preparing to head to Iraq for his fourth tour of duty. "My son is a hero and so are all the others who served this country."

One of the peace advocates, Sheila Goldmacher, a Berkeley woman with Grandmothers Against the War, said she was pushed and shoved by the flag-wavers. "They have a right to be here, they do not have the right to be thugs," she said.

The military recruiting center at 64 Shattuck Square, just south of University Avenue, opened its doors in December 2006 after moving from an Alameda building that was slated to be razed.

But objections didn't begin until last month when CodePINK, an anti-war group, began protesting the center.

"Our message is very clear. We are peaceful people. We don't want to send our sons and daughters into this war. I think the sentiment of Berkeley is on this side of the street," said CodePINK co-founder Medea Benjamin.

Statistics show that Berkeley is sending fewer sons and daughters into the military. In fiscal year 2001, which ended three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, 22 Berkeley residents joined the armed forces, according to Department of Defense enlistment data. By 2006, with the Iraq war in full swing, just 15 signed on, nearly one-third less.

Berkeley's drop mimics a California-wide trend. The Golden State in 2001 was the nation's largest source of new enlistees, with 23,503 residents joining the military in 2001. But in 2006, 2,400 fewer residents heeded the call, and today California ranks second behind Texas in recruitment.

The recruiting office, which has been defaced with graffiti in recent weeks, was closed during the protest Wednesday and a representative was not on site to comment.

However, in a recently published editorial in the Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper, Capt. Richard Lund, the Marine Corps' officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area, said he chose the Berkeley site because "of its proximity to UC Berkeley and to the BART station."

Staff Writer Douglas Fischer contributed to this report.