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The city council of Berkeley, Calif., where the Free Speech Movement was born, has decided that some people deserve more free speech than others and the U.S. Marines don’t deserve any at all.
For about a year, the Marines have had a recruiting station in Berkeley and the council wants it gone, voting 6-3 to declare that it “is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”
To underline the point, the council voted to support the weekly protests of Code Pink, the group of mostly women whose cringe-inducing war protests have done so much to trivialize the anti-war movement.
To help Code Pink members be even more annoying, the council reserved a parking place for them in front of the recruiting station one day a week and granted a sound permit that lets them use loudspeakers one day a week for four hours.
News accounts say that at one recent demonstration, a sparse group of protesters — generally, it is said, there are about a dozen, not a great showing for a place like Berkeley — shouted at the station, “Drive out the Bush regime!” Probably not a lot of thought went into that slogan since they seem to be calling for the Marines to mount a military coup, probably not what they had in mind.
The city council seems to have two objections to the Marines: They are icky militarists, which the Marines would probably not dispute; and the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays, which is unfair.
Indeed, the council is exploring ways of enforcing the city’s law prohibiting sex discrimination against the Marines. The left and particularly the academic left seems unable to grasp a critical point about “don’t ask, don’t tell”: It is not some policy the military dreamed up, but a matter of federal law, enacted by Congress in 1993 and signed by Berkeley fave Bill Clinton. Take it up with Congress, not some recruiting sergeant.
One final point: The young people of Berkeley, although perhaps less disposed to than people elsewhere, have every right to join the military — many of them may find it a satisfying experience, even a career — and the Berkeley city council has no business impeding them.