Berkeley Protesters Battle Over Generals and Genitalia

In that seductively hot mid-February sunshine that is peculiar to Berkeley, phalanxes of teens from nearby Berkeley High School wearing bright-orange World Can't Wait bandannas faced off yesterday against supporters of the US military. On January 29, the Berkeley City Council passed a now-famous resolution declaring the Marine Corps "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" for establishing a downtown officer-recruiting center. Anticipating last night's subsequent council meeting, at which that issue was to be revisited (and where the resolution was, by night's end, rescinded), a crowd that the Berkeley Police Department estimates at 2,000 roiled in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park across from City Hall, on whose front lawn Code Pink had pitched a tent city.

The homophobic Kansas-based Reverend Fred Phelps was expected to arrive, but did not show.

Tempers flared as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "The Star-Spangled Banner," and other tunes boomed from a powerful sound system controlled by the pro-Marines side, whose placards included "Freedom Isn't Free: Never Was and Never Will Be" and "Keep Your Burka, I'll Keep My Clitoris." Now and then someone from the antiwar side - whose placards included "Stop Bush's Death Pimps" and "War Isn't Healthy for Children and Other Living Things" - would pull the plug on the sound system and the music would halt abruptly, so that all you could hear were the chants and the shouts. Antiwar protesters sang "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine," while some of the youngest among them engaged in screaming matches with military supporters.

At one point, for example, a high-school girl asked an elderly vet, "Why don't you take your old ass over there and fight?"

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