Revolution #122, March 9, 2008
The Battle of Berkeley Continues…
On February 12, a major showdown unfolded in the city of Berkeley. Hundreds of Berkeley High School students poured into the streets, along with activists from World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, A.N.S.W.E.R., Vets for Peace, and the Bay Area Revolution Club. They came to demand that the Marine recruiting station in downtown Berkeley be shut down and to support the Berkeley City Council’s statement, which had provoked national controversy, declaring the recruiters “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” On the other side were hundreds of pro-war people waving flags and baton-swinging riot police. (See “The Battle of Berkeley: This War Must Stop!” in the previous issue of Revolution, issue #121, available online at revcom.us.)
Here’s what’s happened since then.
The next day, February 13, some of us went to Berkeley High. Many students were still wearing their orange bandannas. Everyone was talking about what had happened at the recruiting station. They were struggling to understand the police violence and why Berkeley had become the target of this right-wing assault. What we did out there was beautiful. But to the powers-that-be, we “crossed the line.” We were not waiting for Obama to stop the war. We were not politely asking “our elected representatives” to please, hopefully, one day, strategically redeploy some of the troops at some point. We were saying, “This War Must Stop!” and we will do everything we can to politically oppose the war machine operating right here in Berkeley and spread this spirit of resistance throughout the country. This is what the powers-that-be are trying to squash.
The next two Fridays, February 15 and February 22, World Can’t Wait went back to the recruiting station. Significant numbers of determined orange-clad youth protested both times. And both times the non-violent demonstration was attacked by baton-swinging police who then put out reports to the press justifying their attacks as a response to what they claimed to be WCW’s aggressive and unruly behavior. On the 15th, the police used the pretext of a few picket signs scotch taped to the window of the recruiting center (which was closed) to violently clear the sidewalk of protesters and escort the Marines in to remove the signs. But the protesters would not be intimidated so easily! When the riot police withdrew, the protesters immediately regrouped in front of the recruiting station, more energized than before.
On the 22nd, the police used the pretext of a sound violation for bullhorn use in an area of Berkeley that has traditionally been considered a “free speech zone” and where protests have not been met with this level of repression for years. Two young people were arrested on the 22nd, a WCW youth organizer who had clearly been singled out and targeted, and the other a 21-year-old Army vet and “conscientious objector” wearing an orange Guantánamo jumpsuit. The police hit youth in the face with batons and also assaulted older people, including a WCW organizer who was thrown head first into a brick wall and a Code Pink member who is now on crutches after being thrown to the ground. The protesters again regrouped and ended the day at the Marine recruiters station.
The Right-Wing Assault Continues
The Berkeley City Council had backed down from their original stand, and ended up saying that they now “recognize the recruiters’ right to locate in our city” and “deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces.” Despite that, Senator DeMint and other senators sponsoring the “Semper Fi Act” are going forward in their efforts to take funding away from Berkeley public schools and put it into the Marine Corps. A state assemblyman has introduced legislation to cut off millions of dollars in transportation funding to the city. The fascist “pro-troop” organization Move America Forward has launched a nationwide TV ad campaign attacking the city of Berkeley and calling for a full-blown apology “so that no city in America ever again disrespects our troops.”
There has also been an ongoing “story” in the media about the effect of the protesters on the businesses in the area. Apparently some are losing money because of the noise, or because customers are scared to come there! Some of the media stories also add that police overtime due to protesters is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. To all of this we reply: RAISE YOUR SIGHTS! We are speaking for the people of the world: the million Iraqis killed and the over 4 million who’ve been turned into refugees, the torture victims, and countless other victims of the U.S.! Is this recruiting station just another business selling a product? No, they are selling death.
World Can’t Wait Steps It Up for the 5th Anniversary of the War
World Can’t Wait has big plans for March. They have called for a public hearing of the special police review commission, to discuss the police brutality against protesters. The violence of the Berkeley police needs to be documented, and the Berkeley community needs to be mobilized against it. Outrage is mounting because, for the first time in five years, Berkeley police officers have shot and killed someone. A 51-year-old African-American grandmother, Anita Gay, was shot in the back by police in front of her home in South Berkeley on February 16.
March 16, WCW is calling for a community celebration of Berkeley’s resistance to the war, in the park across the street from Berkeley High. And on March 19, the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq, WCW is calling for a day of resistance at the Berkeley Marine recruiting center and walkouts from high schools.
Learning Lessons and Tackling Big Questions
Throughout this whole struggle, the people, particularly the students, are debating some big questions and learning some very important lessons. What system of war and oppression are these right-wingers upholding? What’s wrong with the slogan “support the troops”? What are the police serving and protecting? What about the school administrators who told the students to get back to class? What about the teachers who encouraged their students to go out and engage in the debate? What about us, the antiwar activists–what future should we represent? And, the Bay Area Revolution Club has been in the thick of it, fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. On February 22, the Revolution Club took its banner into the action: “What future for the youth–Killers for Empire, or Emancipators of Humanity?”
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