The Marine Corps opened a recruiting station in downtown Berkeley in January 2007. In September, when they discovered it, CODE PINK and Women In Black responded with protests. Since then, protesters outside the office have hardly given the marines a moment’s respite. By the time recruiters go for a brisk morning jog with ROTC students from UCB, the activists are settled in to start the day for peace by reading and meditating. Throughout the week, the curb in front of the recruiting offices becomes a venue for a variety of efforts to disrupt the recruiting and, ultimately, to drive the marines out of Berkeley. Protest singing, dancing, Tai Chi, yoga, breastfeeding mothers, kiss-ins, and photographic portraits for peace are some of the motley tactics Code Pink uses to keep the action lively. Guerrilla theater actions included a symbolic street cleansing (to wash the marines right out of Berkeley and the blood off residents’ hands), and a New Year’s Day dumping of manure outside the recruiting center.
After being recruited to sing one January afternoon with the women of Code Pink, I sat down in a plastic pink lawn chair in the street and lazily waved a sign saying “You can’t go to school in a body bag.” Behind me a bold pink banner was unfurled and a woman dressed in a marine core uniform played possum on the pavement. Potted orchids, gory photos of war victims, and cardboard sculptures littered the sidewalk in front of the station. A conversation about the horrible suicide rates among vets led to a brainstorm about giving out scholarships and jobs in front of recruiting centers. I put out my cigarette when Linda Maio and Max Anderson walked up to the picket. These two Berkeley City Council members gave stump speeches urging the protesters to keep the banner high.
Recruiters think they’ve got trouble reaching quotas already – imagine protests like this one spreading across the country. The open ended protest invites everyone who walks by to participate and add new layers of creativity and resistance. The palpable reality on the street leaves no room for the recruiter to paint his lurid picture of hope and glory in boldfaced lies. Hats off to recruiting protesters keeping the opposition to the war in our faces.
You can join them every weekday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Marine Recruiting Station, 48 Shattuck Square, Berkeley, CA. Call CODE PINK 510-524-2776 for information.