Mayor Tom Bates offered Friday to help the U.S. Marines leave town by negotiating an end to the lease for their recruiting station, even as he backpedaled on a City Council resolution declaring the Corps “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” in the city.
In the face of an onslaught of pro-military criticism from around the country, Bates, a retired Army captain, also issued a statement that said the City Council’s resolution Tuesday night “did not adequately differentiate our respect and support for those serving in the armed forces and our opposition to the Iraq war policy.” He said he would ask the council to modify the resolution at its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 12.
A Marine Corps spokeswoman said Friday that the Corps has no intention of abandoning its space at 64 Shattuck Square that has been the subject of protests for months.
In an interview Friday, Bates said he has received more than 1,000 e-mails on the resolution, mostly from “the right wing that has really seized up on this and mobilized to pound us.
“I spoke with the landlord, who is a very nice friend of mine, and the Marines have a year and a half to go,” Bates said. “I’m sure if they wanted we could work it out (so they can leave) without penalty. The situation there has disrupted the whole block.”
Bates said he wants the council to rewrite its item to focus on three issues: that Berkeley does not support the Iraq war; free speech is honored in Berkeley; and “given our druthers we would like the Marines to relocate.”
“We are against the war in Iraq, and when you put a recruiting station in our midst, people are going to use that symbol as a way to oppose it,” Bates said. “If pro-war people want to come here, we’ll give them a permit, too.”
Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin said the Corps “appreciates” the fact that the City Council is exercising its right to free speech.
“I can’t predict the future, but I will tell you at this point there is no reason for us to leave,” Franklin said. “We take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and part of the Constitution is the right of free speech, and the fact that they are exercising their rights solidifies our resolve to continue what we are doing.”
It should be noted that City Councilman Gordon Wozniak was the only one who opposed the measure against the Marine Corps, so a note of thanks to him would be appreciated. Also, a petition has been started, check it out here and sign up.
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