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Berkeley City Council moderates anti-Marine position

  • Story Highlights
  • City Council votes to rescind vote that Marine recruiters are "not welcome"
  • City states opposition to war and billions spent on it, support for armed forces
  • Vote follows more than three hours of animated citizen input, council debate
  • Passions ran high, with Berkeley police reporting four misdemeanor arrests
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From Ed Payne
CNN
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(CNN) -- The Berkeley City Council voted early Wednesday to rescind a previous vote that said Marine recruiters are "not welcome in this city," but held tight to its anti-war stance.

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I-Reporter Ira Serkes says he saw more people supporting the Marines than the Berkeley City Council.

The vote came after more than three hours of animated citizen input and council debate. More than 100 speakers took turns at the podium. Each speaker was given up to a minute to comment.

In a 7-to-2 vote, the council said it would no longer send a letter to the local Marine Corps Recruiting Station and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway saying recruiters aren't welcome in Berkeley.

Instead, the city is now simply stating it's opposed to the war and the billions spent on it. However, "we recognize the recruiter's right to locate in our city and the right of others to protest or support their presence," the council said.

The council also said it supports and respects the men and women of the armed forces. Video Watch protesters burn a flag at the demonstration »

Ahead of the vote, passions ran high on both sides of the debate as pro-military demonstrators squared off with anti-war protesters. Berkeley police reported four arrests before the meeting began, all misdemeanors. Police said there were minor scuffles between the anti-war and pro-military camps.

An American flag was set aflame outside the City Council chambers, damaging a pair of bicycles, police said.

Inside, members of the anti-war group Code Pink lined up at the podium to speak. Their salmon-colored signs read, "Berkeley says No to War" and "City Council - We have your back."

But others scolded the City Council. "City Council -- shame on you," said one sign, and "Don't surrender to terrorists," read a T-shirt worn by a Vietnam veteran.

Debbie Lee, whose son Marc was the first Navy SEAL to die in the Iraq war, demanded an apology from the council.

"My son gave up his life for you," Lee told the council as she clutched his framed picture.

"I'm appalled at what you did," she said, referring to the council's vote on Marine recruiters.

"It's despicable what you said about our military," said another military mom, Debbie Parrish. Her son, Victor, currently serves in Iraq.

"It's very, very sad. Shame on you."

But Jean Stewart called the council's stand "courageous and gutsy," saying the war was "immoral." And Judy Christopher said, "We need to stop the war. We need to stop recruitment."

In the measure passed by the council on January 29, Marine recruiters were called "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

It went on to say the council applauds residents and organizations that "volunteer to impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office located in the City of Berkeley."

Protesters with Code Pink have been camped outside the Marine recruiting office on Shattuck Avenue for the last four months, singing peace songs and chanting slogans for an end to the Iraq war. Photo See photos of Code Pink protesters outside Marine office »

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Republican lawmakers in Washington fired back last week, threatening to recall more than $2 million of federal funding to the city as well as money designated for the University of California-Berkeley, the campus that became a bastion of liberalism during the Vietnam War.

The Marine Corps has said it has no plans to move its office, which is located about a block from the college campus. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Dan Simon and Chuck Afflerbach contributed to this report.

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