Vets penalize Berkeley for anti-military stance
BERKELEY — More than 400 motorcyclists didn't want to spend a dime in Berkeley on Saturday, and they would have succeeded, if not for the pizza.
Organizers of a pro-military rally at the U.S. Marine center downtown said they purposely spent $25,000 to $30,000 in neighboring cities to penalize Berkeley financially for its recent anti-military stance.
"If Berkeley does not want the military in town, then veterans should not be spending any money there," said rally organizer Doug Lyvere, a retired Marine sergeant major and the West Region coordinator of Eagles Up, a pro-military group.
Lyvere said he figures the 450 bikers pumped more than 2,000 gallons of gas, spending about $7,600 outside the city. He said about 800 people spent about $20 each for breakfast, lunch, beverages and other supplies outside Berkeley, which the group dubbed the Veterans No Spend Zone, for a total of about $16,000.
About 60 to 75 people paid for motel and hotel rooms outside Berkeley for a total of $7,740 to $9,675, he said.
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I missed this video from the Oakland Tribune this weekend of our amazing Red, White and Blue Rolls Over Berkeley rally.
Cat Moy, Move America Forward's Executive Director, GIVES BERKELEY HELL!
Watch it here.
(photo credit: Michael Macor, SF Chronicle)
"To the best of my knowledge, the only money that was spent was at a pizza place in Berkeley that supports the military center," Lyvere said.
Lyvere delivered a written tally to the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning.
Chamber CEO Ted Garrett said, "The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and this group are on thesame page when it comes to the support of the Marine Corps and the recruiting station. They have a right to bethere, and they haven't broken any laws."
Lyvere said his group was out Saturday solely to support the Marines, not to protest the anti-war groups that have for months protested the Marine recruiting center.
"I don't really care about CodePink and the ANSWER Coalition," he said. "Everyone has their right to free speech, but when the government takes the position that they should throw the military out of town, that's flat-out wrong."
On Jan. 29, the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution calling the military recruiters center "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."
Amid heavy criticism and threats by Republican lawmakers to withdraw federal funding, council members two weeks later moderated their position, saying they oppose the war in Iraq but support the troops. Still, the council has refused to apologize.
Mayor Tom Bates has said the city does plenty to support the military, including paying employees' benefits when they are on active duty.
CodePink, the World Can't Wait: Drive out the Bush Regime and other groups have continued to hold weekly protests at the Marine center.
The Council granted CodePink a free regular event permit, a sound permit and reserved parking for its weekly protests, which have grown and become more volatile in recent weeks.
Police overtime and other expenses have cost the city more than $113,000, a city spokeswoman said.
The money spent outside Berkeley on Saturday was essentially a gain for other cities because the motorcyclists came from New Mexico, Nevada, Washington and don't normally spend money in Berkeley.
Still, Lyvere and the Chamber's Garrett said they want the council to know that businesses are being impacted by the weekly protests.
"When businesses can't even open their doors, there is a loss of business here in Berkeley," Garrett said.
Lyvere said his group and possible other pro-military organizations may rally again in Berkeley if the council doesn't apologize to the Marines.
"I'll wait a week or two to see if there is any feedback from the City Council, and if they choose to apologize, the next trip up will be to spend money in Berkeley," Lyvere said. "If not, then we will spend money in the cities around Berkeley."
Garrett said the Chamber officials have met with Bates and other council members but he doesn't anticipate an apology.
"They aren't looking like they are going to budge," he said, "but that doesn't stop us from working diligently to try and come up with a solution that is going to protect our businesses."
Garrett in particular blamed Councilwoman Dona Spring, who represents downtown, for not supporting the businesses. Spring did not return calls for comment Monday.
Capt. Richard Lund at the Marine center said he had no comment on Saturday's rally. City leaders and police said there were no arrests or problems reported Saturday.
On Monday, however, police arrested four CodePink protesters during a rally to mark the 4,000th U.S. troop death in Iraq. Dressed in clothing that appeared to have blood on it, the protesters went into the Marine center, sat down and refused to leave, police said.
They tried to open the blinds inside and were arrested on a charge of trespassing on private property after being warned by a police officer, police Lt. Andrew Greenwood said.
"We've had enough of this senseless trail of blood and suffering," CodePink founder Medea Benjamin said in a statement. "We'll mark this grim milestone by shutting down the recruiting station that symbolizes more death and destruction."
Those arrested were Benjamin, 55, of San Francisco; Suzanne Joi, 57, of Berkeley; Pamela Bennett, 45, of San Francisco; and Mari T. Blome, 52, of El Cerrito. All were in custody and not available for comment late Monday.