(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in Berkeley, Calif., has become a battleground for protesters. A "pro-troop" organization rally on Wednesday was aimed at countering anti-war protesters who have been demonstrating for the last three weeks.
Code Pink, a leftist anti-war group, began protesting the nine-month-old recruitment center on Sept. 26. The group posted signs saying "recruiters are traitors" and "recruiters lie, children die."
The group also sent a message to their supporters saying: "The Marines have landed in Berkeley! We are shocked and infuriated they have opened a despicable Officer Recruiting Station just blocks from Berkeley High School, UCB and Berkeley City college. We are determined to SHUT DOWN this recruiting station and we need your help! Tell the Marines NO Military Predators in our town!!! Protect our vulnerable youth!"
Capt. Richard Lund, who runs the recruitment stations, responded to Code Pink with an open letter published in the Berkeley Daily Planet, in which he stated: "While the protest that you staged in front of my office on Wednesday, Sept. 26, was an exercise of your constitutional rights, the messages that you left behind were insulting, untrue and ultimately misdirected."
The women of Code Pink have since been a frequent presence at the center, planning protests for at least once a week.
"A lot of the work that we've been doing to bring awareness to what's happening with the war in Iraq is to do what we call 'truth in recruiting,'" said Dana Balicki, national organizer for Code Pink. She added that this is to shed light on the fact that it is recruiters' "jobs to sell the military to young people."
"They have certain point quotas that they have to make, and unfortunately, it is the young men and women of this country that are needed to fill those quotas for recruitment," Balicki told Cybercast News Service. "Recruiting centers, while they are not the masterminds of the war in Iraq, they definitely share some responsibility for continuing to garner support for the military."
But Danny Gonzalez, communications director for Move America Forward, a conservative, pro-military organization, said, "We want to tell the community and basically tell Code Pink that their tactics are uncalled for in this situation."
"They are literally attacking the military and attacking the recruiters," he said. "That is completely off the mark."
Move America Forward said around 300 "pro-troop" protesters turned out at the center on Wednesday.
Balicki noted that the residents of Berkeley are opposed to the recruitment center.
"There have been various resolutions adopted by the city council over the years that have basically condemned the war in Iraq, saying that Berkeley is not going to be a place that supports the war in Iraq or supports any military aggression, or sending any more of our young men and women to fight this illegal and immoral war," she said.
"The women of Berkeley felt that having a military recruitment center open in the area is something that really the community at large didn't support," she added.
"Even if the community around Berkeley doesn't want him to be here, they really don't have a say in it -- it's his legal right and the right of the U.S. military to establish a recruiting station here," Gonzalez told Cybercast News Service.
"The military leased this office from the land owner through legal means, and therefore [Lund] has a right to be here and do whatever recruiting activities he wants," he said.
Gonzalez also took issue with Code Pink, for calling Lund a traitor. "If they want to stop the war, what they ought to be doing is protesting Congress and the people who actually have the power to change things, rather than the military recruiters who are simply doing their jobs," said Gonzalez.
"Many of us feel that calling a recruiter a traitor was not necessarily appropriate," responded Balicki, who noted that the Bay Area Code Pink group is autonomous. "We feel like that is pointing a finger at someone who is part of the system, instead of at the people who are the architects of the system -- meaning the Bush administration."
"But I understand that people are frustrated right now and people are upset," she said. "I think some of those emotions were unleashed at the Berkeley recruitment center."
"The saddest story is that the sons and daughters of this country are being turned into killers and the recruiter plays a part in that, the Bush administration plays a part in that, our members of Congress who continue to support the war and continue to fund it play a part in that," she concluded.
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