By Catherine Moy
(to be posted tomorrow at Human Events )
A showdown between anti-war activists who defaced a Marine recruiting office and flag-carrying patriots took over a street in Berkeley on Wednesday with noise levels that reached a half-mile away at the University of California in town.
Berkeley police officers kept the Code Pink contingent of about 150 separated from the group of about 500 led by Move America Forward, the nation’s largest pro-troop organization. The incidents of abhorrent behavior were rare, but included an anti-war demonstrator trying to knife a pro-troop supporter and two code Pink followers burning flags.
A group of Code Pink protesters surrounded a woman and pushed her around after she said that her brother and other family members were protecting the United States in Iraq. The young woman shook with fear and wept.
“It makes me sick,” said Megan, whose last name is withheld to protect her from harassment. “Code Pink is out here every week protesting in front of the Marine center. These people (Marines) are just trying to do their jobs.”
There were no arrests, and numerous police officers stood watch, including
Berkeley Police Chief Doug Hambleton at one point.
"As long as people stay peaceful, we're as happy as we can be," Hambleton told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Melanie Morgan, chairman of Move America Forward, led the counter-protest to let Code Pink and other anti-war groups know that Americans do not approve of their antics that hurt the troops and their mission.
“I was thrilled to have so many patriotic people from all across the San Francisco Bay Area and
“We will make sure that the truth is always known when it comes to people who will lay their lives down for even those who slander them.”
The large crowd supporting the troops and their mission included veterans, Blue Star parents, or those whose children are serving in the military; Gold Star parents, or those who have lost a child in war; civilians and members of Move America Forward, Gathering of Eagles and other pro-troops groups.
Medea Benjamin, the socialist founder of Code Pink, led her group in
“I feel very strongly that what we are dong in
The clash of protesters resulted from Code Pink vandalizing the Berkeley Marine recruitment center on Sept. 26. The group hung signs on the center calling the Marines “assassins” and scrawled words calling the Marines “liars” and “traitors.”
Marine Capt. Richard Lund, who served two tours of duty in
“While the protest that you staged in front of my office on Wednesday, Sept. 26th, was an exercise of your constitutional rights, the messages that you left behind were insulting, untrue, and ultimately misdirected,”
Capt. Lund recruits college students and college graduates for Marine officer school. His entire letter is at the Berkeley Daily Planet.
Rae Abileah, local groups coordinator for Code Pink, has protested in front of several recruiting centers and likes to educate potential recruits before the sign up.
“I think it’s important to (stand at) recruit centers to teach people about their rights,” Abileah said, adding that unscrupulous recruiters have promised cash bonuses and expedited citizenship just to lure recruits.
She also complained that some of the folks on the other side of the debate have been violent in earlier confrontations, destroying Code Pink’s signs.
Several Code Pink protesters refused to give their names or talk about their reason for defacing the Marine office. But Code Pink’s calendar shows a concerted campaign to drive the recruitment office out of
“A lot of good men have spilled their blood so Code Pink can do this,” veteran Jim Kelly said.
Bryan Welden of
“We need to show our Armed Forces that we stand directly behind them. We need to show the media that all of us are not Code Pinkos. And we need to show the Bay Area that we all need to support our troops.”