"I guess they've never heard of free speech," Berkeley City Councilwoman
Dona Spring told The Chronicle as she defended the council's 6-3 vote to
tell Marine recruiters that they are not welcome in Berkeley and that
if the Marines stay, they will "do so as uninvited and unwelcome
The council also voted 8-1 to give the anti-war Code Pink organization a
designated parking space directly in front of the U.S. Marine Corps' 64
Shattuck Ave. recruiting office and encouraged Code Pink to "impede"
Marine recruitment. It's pretty clear that Spring has heard of
free speech, but she has no idea what it is.
It's one thing for Berkeley to pronounce U.S. troops, who put their
lives on the line every day to defend America, as unwelcome. That's
protected speech that signals Berkeley residents' disdain for U.S.
troops. It's also the sort of rude,
we're-better-than-the-rest-of-America action that invites outsiders to
wonder if a city that tries to divorce itself from military recruitment
deserves the benefits that the federal government bestows.
Apart from that, the Berkeley vote was the antithesis of free speech.
When government officials pass a law to impede the political expression
of non-believers, as the Berkeley pols did on Jan. 29, they are wielding
the club of government to suppress dissent. They are abusing their
Code Pink does not limit its activities to protesting the war. Code Pink
also blocks access to the recruiting office members have chained
themselves to the door which constitutes an attempt to infringe on
the rights of those who, despite a barrage of anti-war propaganda,
nonetheless want to become Marines.
Code Pink is the anti-war equivalent of anti-abortion protesters barring
women from access to abortion clinics a crime compounded by the City
Council's support of this suppression.
Oh, but it's different, supporters argue, because Berkeley is anti-war.
All those high-school lectures about free speech existing to protect
unpopular viewpoints evaporate when you're on the popular side. What's
the point of having power, after all, if you can't use it as a club to
silence those with whom you disagree?
I know many Berkeley residents oppose the war and still are embarrassed
that Berzerkely once again has gone over the top. Too bad their
reasonable voices are lost in the loud, obnoxious, censorious, lefty
"We're not condemning the men and women who serve, we are condemning the
U.S. policy that is teaching the Marines and other military people to
torture, oust other countries' political leaders and do other evil
things," Spring also told The Chronicle. It's typical Berkeley
doublespeak: Spring isn't against the troops; she's just accusing them
When I asked Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain what he
would do, if elected, about the Berkeley vote, McCain said he would use
the bully pulpit to criticize Berkeley, but: "I think Berkeley is
Berkeley, a unique place in America."
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., had a tougher take. "If the city can't show
respect for the Marines that have fought, bled and died for their
freedom, Berkeley should not be receiving special taxpayer funded
handouts," DeMint wrote on his blog. De Mint has found some choice
earmarks $975,000 for the Cal Matsui Center for Politics and Public
Service, $243,000 for the Chez Panisse Foundation that, while not
city projects, made DeMint's list.
Lest you think the DeMint approach is far-fetched, consider Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama's answer to a question posed by NBC's Tim
Russert at a debate last month. "There's a federal statute on the books
which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for
military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can
lose its federal funding. Will you enforce that statute?" Russert asked.
Both Clinton and Obama answered that they would enforce the Solomon
Amendment, which first passed in 1994 when Bill Clinton was president.
The idea was: With federal funding comes responsibility. Except the
Berkeley City Council feels it owes the American military nothing but
disrespect. You see what free speech has become in Berkeley. It's not
the free expression of competing ideas. It's free for lefties only
and for them, speech without consequences.