Marines Not Wanted in Berkeley
Free speech is under threat in a certain town in California. By an 8-1 vote, the city council has decided to align itself with a private effort to force an organization espousing unpopular views to leave the community. The city in question is Berkeley and the group they are seeking to drive from the community is the United States Marine Corps.
The Contra Costa Times provides the details:
Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.
That's the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."
In addition, the council voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines because of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. And it officially encouraged the women's peace group Code Pink to impede the work of the Marines in the city by protesting in front of the station.
In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m.
For a "peace" group, Code Pink shows little qualm about inflicting collateral damage:
Even though the council items passed, not everyone is happy with the work of Code Pink. Some employees and owners of businesses near the Marines office have had enough of the group and its protests.
"My husband's business is right upstairs, and this (protesting) is bordering on harassment," Dori Schmidt told the council. "I hope this stops."
An employee of a nearby business who asked not to be identified said Wednesday the elderly Code Pink protesters are aggressive, take up parking spaces, block the sidewalk with their yoga moves, smoke in the doorways, and are noisy.
"Most of the people around here think they're a joke," the woman said.
"Most of the people" are right. Obstructing the sidewalk with yoga? What can I possibly say to make that sound any more ridiculous than it already does?
Unfortunately, what is not a joke is the willingness of Code Pink to claim the right to deny free expression to others in the name of a higher morality. As one of their members puts it:
"This is very serious," Rachel said. "This isn't a game; it's mass murder. There's a sickness of silence of people not speaking out against the war. We have to do this."
"Mass murder"? No, "mass murder" is what will ensue if Code Pink gets its way and the forces of jihadist barbarism are allowed to roam unchallenged in Iraq, Afghanistan and who knows where else. Still, this is America. If the members of Code Pink really want to metaphorically drop trou and relieve themselves on those who risk their lives to defend our freedom, that is their right. What is not acceptable is the Berkeley City Council choosing to give official sanction to their efforts.
As the lone dissenting voice in council noted (and dissent is patriotic, after all), the city government has chosen to not only take sides in a public debate, but to openly assist one side in trying to silence their opponents. This has disturbing free speech implications.