Since last night, demonstrators have been gathered outside of Berkeley City Hall, waiting to see whether the City Council will repeal a letter it issued last month informing the US Marines that they were “uninvited and unwelcome” intruders in the city.
After attracting international attention, and prompting republican lawmakers to call for federal funding to be withdrawn from the city, the council is meeting again tonight to reconsider their statement.
I wasn’t able to stay until the meeting was finished, but I stopped by in the afternoon and the evening to check out the scene.
People from Code Pink have been camping out in front of city hall, and a crowd of anti-war demonstrators has gathered around them.
Separated by a police line, a large crowd of counter-demonstrators is blasting patriotic music and waving flags. In the afternoon, the crowd of counter-demonstrators seemed the bigger of the two, but by the time the meeting started it appeared to have evened out.
To make things even more chaotic, a delegation of workers from Pacific Steel is also demonstrating at City Hall, in relation to another item on the agenda – a proposal to declare the Pacific Steel plant a public nuisance.
The proposal stems from noise and pollution complaints, but workers are afraid regulation will endanger their jobs. Unfortunately, because they arrived in the midst of a standoff between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, their anti-City council stance effectively put them on the side of the pro-war demonstrators. There was a bit of commotion as people tried to find a camp to put them in, especially after one of the leaders of the workers delegation began making patriotic, pro-military statements. A few people from Code Pink tried to talk tie the loss of jobs to war policies, and one very unpleasant guy (who, judging from his orange bandana, was from an anti-war group) yelled at the (mostly Latino) workers for being “illegal Mexicans.”
I was able to talk to a few of the workers later, and it was clear they were there only about the Pacific Steel resolution, and had no intentions of making a statement for or against the Marines.
I have more photos up on flickr, and I'm still waiting to see how it all turns out.
UPDATE: The Berkeley City Council elected to retract the statement, but refused to apologize to the Marines. Republican lawmakers are continuing to push the "Semper Fi" act, which cuts off federal funding for the City of Berkeley.