Fury Builds in Berkeley Over City's Anti-Military Resolutions

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - It will be another noisy day in Berkeley, Calif., as pro-military and anti-war protesters gather outside the city council chamber to weigh in on three anti-military resolutions the council passed last month.

Move America Forward, a pro-troop group, is leading a contingent of pro-military and veterans' groups in what it describes as a "giant, all-day, protest."

The controversy involves a Marine Corps recruiting station that moved to the liberal bastion of Berkeley in December 2006.

At its Jan. 29, 2008 meeting, the Berkeley City Council passed three controversial resolutions: One said the Marine recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

A second resolution encouraged the city to go after the Marines by enforcing a local law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (Federal law says homosexuality is incompatible with military service.) It also encouraged protests aimed at the recruiting center.

And to facilitate those protests, the city council also voted on Jan. 29 to give the group Code Pink a free parking space in front of the recruiting station so it would have a place to conduct its weekly protests -- with bullhorns. (A free sound permit was included with the free parking space.)

At tonight's meeting, the city council will consider whether to revoke the resolution calling the Marines "unwelcome and uninvited intruders."

But that's not enough for Move America Forward and other military supporters, who are demanding that the city council rescind all three anti-military resolutions it passed on Jan. 29 -- not just the one denouncing the Marines as intruders.

"Members of the Berkeley City Council have said they meant no disrespect towards the members of the U.S. military and only meant to protest the war against terrorism, but their actions belie their words," said Melanie Morgan, Chairman of Move America Forward.

"If they are not attacking our brave troops, then why not rescind all the resolutions they passed calling on citizens to work to close the Marine Recruiting Center in town? If they truly believe in free speech rights for all Americans, why not rescind the special privileges they granted only to the anti-military group Code Pink...?"

Move America Forward says the Berkeley City Council is not interested in supporting the troops: It is just trying to "take the heat off themselves" following a national backlash against their actions.

Councilwoman Linda Maio, who led the fight against the recruiting station, said she didn't expect the controversy to "explode" the way it did. She said the council received 24,000 emails on the topic.

"But we'll take the heat and the attacks," the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Maio as saying. "Even though we're under a lot of pressure, I think it's fair to say this war is a misuse of our young people. And we'll stand up for that."

The controversy reaches all the way into the halls of Congress, where Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina (and other Republicans) introduced a bill that would strip Berkeley of pork barrel spending.

The Semper Fi Act of 2008 would rescind over $2 million in hidden earmarks for Berkeley in the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill, and transfer those funds to the Marine Corps instead.

U.S. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Senate Democrats have so far blocked Republican efforts to advance the Semper Fi Act.

Instead of adjourning at the end of the day as usual, the Senate "recessed" twice last week, a move that slows the process of adding new bills to the calendar, The Hill newspaper reported.

"The only reason to recess is to block something, and the thing that got blocked by Reid's stall tactic was the Semper Fi Act," said Sen. DeMint's spokesman Wesley Denton. "Democrats have chosen not to defend the Marine Corps, but to pander to anti-war protesters and Berkeley officials that are actively trying to impede military recruitment."

Reid's office says the recess was called, not to block Semper Fi, but to give Democrats the flexibility to map their floor strategy on various bills.

See Earlier Story:
Marine Recruiters 'Traitors,' Say Code Pink Protesters (Oct. 18, 2007)

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