Berkeley and the Marines-Truth!

Berkeley, California, Asked a Marine Recruiting Station to Leave the City-Truth! But Reversed!

Summary of eRumor:

The forwarded email says that the city council of Berkeley, California voted 8 to 1 to tell the United States Marines that their down recruiting station is not welcome in the city and that if they choose to say they will be “uninvited and unwelcome guests.”  The eRumor also includes a letter from a businessman who said that because of the city council’s decision he’s going to stop doing business with anyone in Berkeley.  

The Truth:

On January 29, 2008, the Berkeley city council did vote 8 to 1 to tell the Marines that their recruiting station in the downtown district “was not welcome.”  In a letter intended for the Marines they also told recruiters that if they elected to stay it would be as “uninvited and unwelcome guests.”

On February 12, 2008, the city council took back the letter and issued a new statement that said the council recognized the recruiters’ right to be located in Berkeley but also recognized the right of others to protest or support their presence.  The city council also said it opposes the recruitment of young people into the Iraq war.

The recruiting office had been operating for about a year but toward the end of 2007 a group calling itself Code Pink began regular protests against the presence of the Marines.

In a separate vote 8 to 1 vote at the January 29 meeting, the Berkeley city council gave support to Code Pink by granting the protest group a designated parking space in front of the recruiting office from noon to 4:00pm every Wednesday for six months.  The city council also gave Code Pink a free sound permit during those hours.  Mayor Tom Bates was quoted as saying “I believe in the Code Pink cause.  The Marines don’t belong here, they shouldn’t have come here, and they should leave.”  The February 12 meeting left the Code Pink permits remain in place.

In response in February, 2008, legislation was introduced in both houses of congress called the Semper Fi Act of 2008 that would rescind more than $2 million in federal funds for Berkeley.  Mayor Bates objected saying that the federal earmarks were for schools, water ferries, and police communications and should not be in jeopardy because of the city council’s actions.  At the same time Bates issued an apology to the families of any service personnel serving in Iraq and said “We want them to come home and be safe at home.”

The letter from businessman Brian Dennard of Meridian Development Group is authentic.  In it he chastises the Berkeley City Council for its decision and declares that his company is no longer going to do business with anyone in Berkeley.  Dennard said he never intended for the letter to become so widely distributed.  He had sent it to a few of his contacts and it got circulated from person to person and mushroomed.  He said that he spends much of his day answering phone calls and emails asking if he really wrote the letter and that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Updated 2/11/08