Tensions flare up in Berkeley over Marines

February 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
There was occasional crowd noise from outside City Hall in Berkeley, as the speakers filed to the podium inside.

Hundreds of people waited on the lawn in Berkeley for their chance to speak. There were some demonstrations ranging from the festive to rowdy.

A loudspeaker was set up outside City Hall so people could listen to what was going on inside council chambers. So far, Berkeley police made four arrests, all misdemeanors from earlier in the day when things got heated.

Tension flared up into the night, as someone threw what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail. It ended up setting a couple of bikes on fire.

Protesters came to Berkeley from all over Northern California. Carol Sellwood drove all the way from Placerville.

"I think it's really unfortunate because if they were attacked, if Berkeley was attacked, the first people they would call would be the military," said protester Carol Sellwood.

Things got heated during the day as well, especially when students from Berkeley High School joined in.

Anti-war protesters say -- they want the Marines out.

"The best part of America is not about militarism. It's about freedom and democracy, that's what we're defending," said Berkeley resident Tom Andrae.

Police in riot gear are doing what they can to keep the peace -- but protesters from both sides claim they've been roughed up.

"I got pushed around, and jabbed and elbowed and it was not pleasant," said protester Redwood Mary.

"I'm in my walker and my flag and they tried to take the flag away from me and that was a big mistake. Don't touch me, don't push me," said protester Heidi Unger.

Some people don't understand why tempers are escalating as much as they are. Many find the situation disheartening.

"I brought my 8-year-old here to have a little lesson in civics and I think it's great that they're here expressing their views. I'm saddened by the low level of discourse. The real truth is there's got to be some common ground on both sides," said Berkeley resident Annie Leonard.

The crowd outside is getting smaller as the night goes on. According to Berkeley Police, at the height of the demonstrations, the crowd estimates was about 2,000 people.


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