Berkeley Zoning Initiative FAQ

“At this critical time in our nation's evolution, counter recruitment actions are a legitimate act of dissent against the Bush Administration's despicable misuse of America's military. Restricting where, how, and when young Americans can be recruited impedes the ability of the Bush Administration to continue the occupation of Iraq.  Non-violent counter-recruitment actions are part of the time-honored, constitutionally protected democratic process.” – From a veteran of the US Air Force, Army aunt, and active member of CODEPINK

Q: Why are you protesting the Marines Officer Recruiting Station (MRS) in Berkeley?

Answer: Our immediate goal is to have clear zoning regulations for military recruiting and to put citizen pressure to shut down the existing recruiting station that is just blocks from Berkeley City College, UC Berkeley, and Berkeley High School. Our overriding goal is to end the war in Iraq now. We are not protesting the marines themselves, but the machine that recruits our youth and sends them off to fight in an illegal and immoral war in Iraq.

Q: What does the initiative say?
Answer: Click here to download the text of the initiative to Regulate Location of Military Recruiting in Berkeley.

Q: Who are the leaders of this campaign, and who do they represent?
Answer: After an ad hoc group of citizens, CODEPINKers and others, had protested the MRS starting in September 2007, the Zoning Military Recruiting (ZMR) formed in late 2007 when attorney Sharon Adams decided to write an Initiative modifying the zoning ordinance to restrict military recruiting in Berkeley.

Diverse organizations have endorsed this initiative including Bay Area IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against War), Grandmothers for Peace, Act Against Torture, Military Out of Our Schools, El Cerrito and Berkeley Greens, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, the National Lawyers Guild, and more. 

The diverse coalition of coordinating partners includes: Carole Kennerly, PhoeBe sorgen, Ying Lee, Sharon Adams and Zanne Joi.

Carole Kennerly (Davis) is a long time Berkeley resident and was the first African American woman elected to the Berkeley City Council.  Among other distinguished public service, this proud mother and grandmother is a member of NAACP, Berkeley Chapter and board member of the Berkeley YWCA. Carole is a retired public health professional who worked on maternal and child issues including domestic violence.

PhoeBe sorgen is a voice teacher/singer, CODEPINKer, and also active as a Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner, KPFA Local Station Board community rep, co-founder of Bay Area chapter, and mother of a Berkeley High School student.

Ying Lee was a teacher for many years in the Berkeley Unified School District. She served as a member of the Berkeley City Council in the 70's, Administrative Aide to Congressman Ronald V. Dellums in Berkeley and Legislative Director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  Presently a Trustee of the Berkeley Public Library, Ying is also a parent and a grandparent.

Sharon Adams is an attorney who worked for several years in land use law, and is interested in the interplay between the use of real property and first amendment rights.  She is also an intellectual property attorney, board member of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and a parent.

Zanne Joi is a CODEPINK activist and truck driver, long-time resident of Berkeley, mother, and has several family members who served in the military.

Q: Don't the Marines have a right to free speech and to do business?
Answer:  Cities have the right to regulate the businesses they allow into their community.  The initiative abides by the free speech provisions found in the First Amendment of the Constitution by regulating, but not prohibiting, military recruiting speech.  And by the way, the Marines don't even allow their own members full rights of free speech.

Q: We need a military, and there is no draft. Isn't recruiting a legitimate activity?
Answer: Opposing recruiting is also a legitimate activity. It is well documented that recruiters often lie to get youth to enlist.  In addition, the military has a multi-BILLION dollar budget PER YEAR to advertise and glorify military service. Furthermore, while most people agree that having a military for defense is necessary, the war in Iraq was not and is not for defense. We are engaged in an unjust war that is not supported by the people of Berkeley.  Therefore we want young people to question what military service really means.  We don't want aggressive recruiters enticing our youth to put their lives on the line with promises of training, money, a career and generous benefits that they often don't deliver.

Q: The Marines and the rest of the military protect your freedom of speech. Isn't protesting them hypocritical?
Answer:  The Marines are NOT protecting our freedom of speech or our Constitution by engaging in an illegal war against a country that never attacked us. We protect our freedom of speech -- and assembly -- by exercising those rights.
What is hypocritical is to say the Marines protect free speech and then ask that we not use it.

Q: The government, not the military, makes foreign policy and wars. Why aren't you protesting the government?
Answer: CODEPINK and other organizations have been doing so for years and will continue to protest the government with participation in governmental hearings, meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing campaigns, and many creative acts of protest and public education from the White House to the SF Federal Building. The recruiting initiative allows the local community to speak about whether recruiters should have access to Berkeley youth.

Q: Aren't you being unpatriotic?
Answer: We are very patriotic.  To us, patriotism means remaining true to the core American values of democracy, freedom of speech and assembly.  The majority of people in the United States and in Iraq do not want U.S. troops in Iraq.  We are using the democratic process to regulate military recruiting of our youth to be cannon fodder in an illegal war based on nearly a thousand Bush administration lies; a war that is not supported by the people.

Q:  If passed, would this initiative shut down the Marine Recruiting Station on Shattuck Square?
Answer: No, the initiative applies to future military recruiting stations.

Q:  Wouldn't it be more effective to have volunteers doing counter-recruiting?
Answer:  Let's do both!   Counter-recruiters will still be encouraged to educate potential enlistees wherever military recruiting stations are located, even if the initiative passes and the recruiting stations are no longer allowed in residential neighborhoods.

Q: Don't you women have better things to do, like take care of your husbands and families?
Answer: Caretaking is a traditional womanly value which we continue in the realm of public politics. We work to take care of the world, our country and fellow human beings everyday. We feel our military has better things to do, like protect citizens here at home and not have their own be torn apart by this war/occupation.

In front of the MRS, we demonstrate the peaceful alternatives to militarism, including meditation, yoga, conversation, singing, a baby play group, a Friday afternoon “kiss – don't enlist” party and other activities. We enjoy warm public support in downtown Berkeley.

Q:Does this protest mean that you don't support our troops?  
Answer: “Support the troops” has become empty rhetoric. We want new recruits to be told the truth and our military to be brought home and no longer be an occupying force. That's the best way to support the troops. We also vigorously support fully funding health care and family benefits for our returning veterans, who suffer at record-breaking levels from traumatic brain injury, depression and other mental disorders, multiple traumatic injuries, and exposure to Depleted Uranium.

Q:What right does the city of Berkeley have to pass such a resolution and consider the initiative?  
Answer: Any city has the right, through its zoning ordinances, to regulate commercial establishments. This initiative is grassroots democracy at work because it gives the people of Berkeley the right to make this decision. Moreover, the Municipal Code of the City of Berkeley says that “Initiatives are needed to reverse the drift toward war and to remove the causes of war.” So this initiative is actually part of the city's mandate.

Q: Does the federal government have the power to cut off funding to the city of Berkeley?
Answer: NO. The use of such a threat to withdraw federal funding for schoolchildren's healthy lunches, for example, just shows the depths to which ill-informed opponents of this campaign, such as Senator DeMint, have sunk. If engaging in political speech results in punishment then we no longer live in a democracy.

Q: This campaign has inspired some people to call CODEPINK activists nasty names, often using profanity and death threats.  What is your response to these calls, emails, and verbal threats?
Answer: We propose to talk and debate in a peaceful manner with opponents of the campaign, if they are willing to do likewise. Their sexist verbal violence so far, however, shows that they react with emotion and irrationality, not reasoned argument.