When Tom Bates was seeking to become Mayor of Berkeley, California, in 2002, the free newspaper, Daily Californian, printed an edorsement of then-incumbent mayor Shirley Dean. After being distributed to newstands, around 1,000 of the newspapers were stolen by Bates. Bates admitted the theft, and was convicted of an infraction, rather than the more serious misdemeanor.
Now, The Mayor is accused of attempting to steal the free speech rights of the United States Marine Corps by harassing the recruiting center into abandoning its lease.
Talking to the Contra Costa Times, Bates reportedly said he would broker a deal to release the Marines from their building lease, but the Marines said they will stay.
On Tuesday this week, Berkeley Council passed two resolutions condemning the Marines as part of a campaign by anti-war activists to shut down the recruiting center. The council gave Code Pink a free parking place and noise permit. The Code Pink group has been harassing the Marines with a daily barrage of hate speech, which also disrupts local businesses.
In response, non-partisan, charitable organization Move America Forward launched a petition drive denouncing the Mayor and Council, demanding they apologize to the USMC.
The response to the petition by bloggers, talk radio, Internet, television reports and pro-troops organizations was so overwhelming it crashed the organization’s website [ www.moveamericaforward.com ] within minutes after launch. Supportive pro-troops organizations included the American Legion, Vets for Freedom, Gathering of Eagles and EaglesUp.
The groups plan to deliver protest petitions at the next regularly scheduled Berkeley City Council meeting February 12.
Catherine Moy, Executive Director of Move America Forward today said “We have contacted all branches of our government to redress these issues, and will explore all legal, legislative and executive avenues to stop the injustice perpetrated by the Berkeley City Council.”
The group also wants to stop Berkeley from issuing gifts of public funds, such as free parking spaces, and violating the Constitution.
After Berkeley’s attack on Marines last week, a national backlash erupted, when their resolutions called America’s heroes “intruders.”
Saying “Our group will stand with the Marines until their attackers stop,” Move America Forward branded Mayor Bates’ words “arrogance.”
Melanie Morgan, chairman of Move America Forward says Bates “crossed the line by trying to steal the Marine’s First Amendment Rights, and we will not stand for this treasonous behavior. His stunning offer to “broker a deal” to release the Marines from the building lease shows the depth of his contempt for our military men and women.”
Since Move America Forward initiated a campaign for people to call and email the City Council, thousands of e-mails, calls and letters of denunciation have poured into the offices of Bates and other council members who support the efforts to drive the USMC out of town.