Berkeley shames troops, Congress retaliates

February 6, 2008 11:58:29 PM PST
What's more important: a political statement or food for children?

That's the choice for the Berkeley City Council on Thursday, after its attempt to run the military out of town, back-fires.

Lawmakers in Washington are furious about Berkeley's stand against a marine recruiting office on Shattuck Avenue.

Council members have found out the hard way that their politics has a price.

The Berkeley city council gave the protesters permission to demonstrate in a parking space right in front of the marine recruiting center.

The council also waived a sound permit fee allowing them to use bullhorns, and it approved a letter to be sent to the marines calling them: "unwelcome and uninvited intruders."

"I voted for it. I voted for it, and it retrospect it was a mistake," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

But now Mayor Tom Bates and the council are having second thoughts; especially now that a South Carolina senator has launched a bill threatening to yank $2.1 million dollars in Berkeley's Federal funding.

"You know, sometimes when you're out there on the cutting edge, sometimes you go too far," said Mayor Bates.

"You pick this kale from the bottom up so you can see the kids have been picking it and eating it," said Berkeley Schools Nutritional Director Ann Cooper.

About $300,000 dollars could be taken away from the Chez Panisse Foundation which provides nutritional education and lunches for students.

"What did the kids do wrong? This is ridiculous. We're taking good food away from the children, and the education we're doing nationally about our program because there's a fight about Marines and Berkeley. That's ridiculous. It's shameful," said Cooper.

The Semper Fi bill threatens to take away about a million dollars from UC Berkeley, and another million from a proposed ferry service and public safety.

"If the people on the Berkeley council want to address Federal issues than perhaps they should run for Congress," said Joe Wierzbicki from Move America Forward.

Supporting the bill is Joe Wierzbicki and a grass roots organization called "Move America Forward."

"Apparently, the Berkeley city council thinks free speech only goes one way. Well, nuh uh! That doesn't work, and we're going to make our voices heard on Tuesday," said Wierzbicki.

That's when the council is slated to vote on a motion to rescind the letter. Move America Forward says it will hold a rally to encourage a "yes" vote and call for a formal apology to the men and women of the armed services.