Berkeley Marine Recruiting Station Campaign
In order to begin to grasp the many actions, activities and forms of resistances that have occurred in the last five years, we have put together this survey.
We recognize that many of you have explored multiple campaigns, tactics and strategies. We ask that you give each one its worth and discuss one activity at a time. Share more than one activity by filing multiple forms.
(Note this survey was completed via a phone interview conducted in May –08 and an email exchange in July ’08)
1 Your name, names of collaborators or collective name (aliases are fine).
East Bay Code Pink; respondent Janet Weil
2. Name of activity, campaign, project etc…
The Berkeley MRS Campaign (Marine recruiting station) is the campaign to close down the Marine recruiting station in Berkeley. The campaign has multiple regular activities that fill out a weekly calendar of events at the recruiting station-including Tuesday’s “Art In Action.” Each day of the week has been designated to a particular woman. This week is a lead up to Mother’s Day and tomorrow is “Sirens Crones and Witches Day”. There was an event called “Don’t Enlist Stay and Kiss”- which was a natural for Valentines Day.
3: Is this activity affiliated with any other groups?
We’ve had some participation with other groups. World Can’t Wait used to do Fridays, which made for noisier and more confrontational actions. We’ve worked with members of IVAW as well.
4: Dates of activity (month, year, duration, is it ongoing?).
We began in September of 2007. The recruiting office is not high profile; it is a small suite of offices that the Marines opened in January 2007. A lawyer started a zoning initiative to zone out military contracting in Berkeley. She happened to go to yoga in that building. We have a presence there, in the least, every Wednesday from 7:30 to 4:30. Most weeks there is some Code Pink presence Monday through Friday. We maintain a community center on the sidewalk, where people hold activities that you’d find in a community center. A man was leading an hour of group meditation right there on the sidewalk. Other activities include a baby play and breast-feeding group, dance classes and singing every Wednesday. For the babies they put down blankets. Toby, who leads the yoga, brings mats. For meditation they bring folding chairs Zanne coordinates all of this.
The police have brought various codes down upon us. For our use of the sidewalk, we’ve gone back and forth in order to have such things as tables, chairs and ironing boards. The judge has upheld our right to have 4 feet of space on the sidewalk, plenty for our ironing board and a few chairs Though we’ve been in the street, right in the street, and on the sidewalk,
5: Location(s) of activity (city, street, store, gallery, web site, be specific).
We have a presence right in front of the recruiting center. The city granted us a parking place right in front of the MRS from 12 to 4 pm on Wednesdays. On Feb. 13th, 2008 the city came and put the sign on the parking meter. People have the idea that the city gave us the place 24-7. This is not true, and any group can apply for this kind of permit.
Zanne (the main organizer of our MRS campaign) has a large colorful truck. She’s a full time activist but used to be antique dealer. She’d try to park right in front of office and with this permit now she can. Except none of us Pinkers park in the space during "our" 4 hours on Weds - we always stand and sit, keeping it vehicle-free. Zanne parks across the street.]
In March we had a week called “The Real Green Zone”. We had a huge platform truck like the kind that can be used for parades. It had all kinds of plants on it. We moved the plants and all kinds of stuff into the streets. Doing so, peoples’ energy changes. It is a way to recover the space from vehicles.
6: Type of activity (please attempt to classify the tactic).
In your face. We are literally right in front of and in the face of recruits, Marines, and the police. Otherwise, it depends on the given day. There’s been mourning, fun times, intense confrontational times (in particular when the right winger motorcycles group, Gathering Of Eagles, staged a counter protest). A big part of it is demonstrating other ways of being; with the recruits, merchants, high school boys and people who pull up in cars. The media coverage has focused primarily on intense and confrontational times.
7: Target and goal of activity.
The primary goal is to make the Marines close up shop and go away
The bigger goal is to take part in a larger counter recruitment campaign.
There are many different aspects to it: 1 to 1 counseling, getting kids to Read Army Of None (a book by Aimee Allison and David Solnit), getting the message into the liberal media. All of this has happened at outside the Berkeley MRS.
We want the office to be closed. We have meet with the landlord to try to get him to break the lease. Medea Benjamin said that this office has become a symbol. There’s been so much public notice of it. As you know the city of Berkeley was in the process of outlawing military recruitment with in the city, but this law was voted down.
This is definitely a turf and identity issue. For the Marines as well. it's as if they are saying, “We can go anywhere we want”. And people in Berkeley are like “What are you doing in our city?” So folks are reasserting their position as antiwar.
A recent development with the Marines is that they lock their door during business hours. The have a sign in there storefront explaining, ”due to increased foot traffic we keep this door looked”. They have a siege mentality. Numerous times in the past, woman have gone in and just sat. On the day of the 4,000th soldiers death, 4 women (co-founder Medea Benjamin, activists Zanne Joi, Toby Blome, and Pamela Bennett) went in with fake blood and did a mourning action- all were arrested (the judge's decision exonerated them, dropping all but one minor charge.]. When this is going on in your workspace, you’re not getting work done. Capt Lund (the recruitment officer for Sept- Oct 2007) wrote a long letter in Berkeley’s Daily Planet about why the Marines had set up shop in Berkeley. Code Pink wrote a letter back. This spurred on a flurry of letter to the editors in the local papers. Captain Lund has since been re-assigned, I believe at his request. He's not in Berkeley anymore.
9: What was the outcome of activity?
For me the most interesting has been seeing this ordinary space (the sidewalk, a parking space) being transformed to a site for women, kissing, singing, and playing and caring for babies. Witnessing the beauty and joy and excitement of folks coming together.
I think that there haven’t been many actual interventions. I have only been in 1 conversation with a young man going into Marines. His uncle was in the Marines –which is a powerful draw for him- we talked for 45 minutes. I think some people have criticized us saying that we should be set up where we could interact more with high school students. Some people are thinking of doing actions In the Richmond mall.
10: What did you learn from this activity?
I’ve learned a lot about the importance of messaging. Messaging for banners, fliers, how folks talk with the community and media. This needs to be carefully considered. For a long time we’ve had a banner which read “No Military Predators In Our Town.” That’s a negative message and it gets folks fired up. But I’ve learned how a negative message can ultimately be a weaker message. It’s stronger to put things in a positive message
When you are carrying on a high-energy campaign that attracts people and media through negative attention and energy it’s more demanding on the group. In these high visibility campaigns differences of style and opinions, that wouldn’t be so import otherwise, rises to surface. It’s not like we set out in September to say, “This will be the next 3 years of my life”. And it has taken a lot of time and energy to discuss and figure out what piece of a long campaign people can fit in with and sustain.
Another thing I’ve learned is that while it’s necessary to work with people with a diversity of views, you better figure out how you’re going to handle divergent opinions that get expressed by a group. Especially in terms of how the media works today. You have to get clear within group where peoples positions are.
Dealing with the hate mail that we’ve received its been intense and hard. We’ve received some straight up sexist violent mail. There have been folks who’ve been critical but not abusive. This is an opportunity. Here we can connect with mostly men that we wouldn’t otherwise reach. I remember one young man who said, “I don’t understand what’s going on? How could you protest the Marines?” To many they represent the male ideal of protection. I exchanged emails with that student in Massachusetts several times and this was great.
I have gotten used to the hate/critical email, and the level and intensity have come down a lot since. I have had numerous good exchanges with young men and boys. However, on Monday I listened to a long, intense rant on the Code Pink office voicemail from a Marine sergeant who said he was calling from Iraq, and he seemed to think we Pinkers were somehow interfering with Marine training. So who knows what all is being said about us in the right wing/military grapevine. I wished I could have spoken with him, actually. He described holding a dying buddy in his arms and was speaking out of this swirl of rage, grief, impatience, hurt pride, concern about "his" men's morale, anxiety, a bit of coarse humor -- and underneath it all, a frantic desire to connect with -- and dump on -- some unknown woman. That is the kind of energy we have attracted and will need to continue to deal with for a long time, both Code Pink and the larger civilian society.
11: What influenced the decisions you made in creating this activity? (Be specific)
Overall the inspiration is our intense anguish and anger and our commitment to end the war. Here in Berkeley, this is the war and the military machine touching down at home. I wish the antiwar movement realized that we have the war in our communities, here not elsewhere. I know that Direct Action To Stop the War will be taking on the issue of the war at home and we have in turn inspired other Code Pink groups to challenge the war at home as well.
12: How do you measure success for this activity?
There are two tests,
A) The media and public attention we garner. For us it’s been huge. Our project is national for Code Pink.
B) The practical goal of getting the station closed- we haven’t achieved this yet. I ask myself what that would that would look like? There was a recruiting station that was closed down in downtown Oakland. We’d love to see the Berkeley recruiting station go a way.
13: In order to continue and be successful with this or other related activities, what would you do or need? (Be specific: is it a question of tools, more people, concepts, lock boxes, training, cultural change.)
People!!! Media coverage in places like the NY Times and the LA Times. If the New Yorker ran a long piece about counter recruitment, that would get out to lots of people.
What is it going to take to close the recruitment station? Is it going to take a new Cindy Sheehan moment to close that particular office, to bring recruitment down to that level where the government can’t maintain the war?