Why Didn't Berkeley Police Defend Pro-Troop Demonstrators?

The nation’s largest pro-troop nonprofit organization is asking the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco to investigate whether the city of Berkeley has broken federal laws by encouraging radical anti-war groups to “impede” a U.S. Marine recruiting office and failing to protect pro-troop demonstrators.

An attorney for Move America Forward asks in a letter to the Honorable Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, to investigate the lack of police response during a Feb. 12 Berkeley rally at which anti-war agitators attacked and injured pro-troop demonstrators.

“We hereby request an investigation into the timely lack of response by the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Police Department during the events of February 12, 2008,” lawyer James F. Sweeney wrote. “In short, the City of Berkeley failed to protect its citizens engaged in the lawful exercise of their rights under both the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws.

“As you know, these laws fully protect our client’s right to participate in such peaceful expression, and they have the right to be protected from such acts of violence.”

Anti-war protesters hit people with skateboards, threw rocks, push and shoved veterans, smashed people with protest signs, pinched and hit individuals. At least one male veteran went to a hospital emergency room after a protester smashed his foot. A Blue Star mother (among those who have children serving in war) had a huge bruise under her arm where an anti-war attacker grabbed her.

None of those hurt in the attack was hospitalized overnight.

Sweeney’s letter also addresses the issue that spurred the Feb. 12 demonstrations. The Berkeley City Council earlier had passed resolutions calling the Marines “uninvited” and “unwelcome”, while giving to an anti-war group free permits and a designated parking space in front of the Marine Recruiting center.

The City Council encouraged the radical group Code Pink and other anti-war organization to “impede” the work of the Marines in an effort to drive them out of Berkeley.

“The City of Berkeley is actively, through the legislative action by the City Council, encouraging private organizations to disrupt the lawful governmental operations of the United States in the City of Berkeley, by encouraging groups to “impede” the efforts of the United States Marine Corps to recruit qualified young people to serve in the Corps,” MAF’s attorney wrote.

“By encouraging disruptive behavior patently calculated to drive the Marine Corps out of the City of Berkeley, the City Council appears to be soliciting unlawful, and quite possibly criminal, interference with the lawful operations of a federal agency operating within the City of Berkeley,” he added.

Melanie Morgan, chairman of Move America Forward, attended the Feb. 12 rally and witnessed the anarchist behavior of anti-war thugs and the police’s refusal to stop the attacks.

“We support the police and all men and women in uniform,” Morgan said. “So we considered our legal actions carefully. I was shocked by the lack of protection from the Berkeley police on February 12. We asked them numerous times for help as people were attacked and injured.”

MAF last week sent the letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Neither Russoniello nor anybody in his office has yet responded to the MAF letter. Morgan will hand-deliver a copy of the letter to Russoniello today and hold a press conference in front of the San Francisco Federal Building at which victims of the attacks will speak.

“I was horrified but not surprised that the peacethugs attacked and injured pro-troop supporters,” Morgan said. “I have seen their violent behavior and disruption up close too many times. As our troops do their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan, these goons set off a bomb in Times Square and splash fake blood on churchgoers on Easter Sunday. Pitiful.”

A lawyer for MAF recorded statements as the Feb. 12 rally continued from individuals whom the anti-war groups attacked. Sweeney then sent the letter to the Berkeley City counsel for action.

The letter outlined statements from six people who had trouble getting the police department to protect them after anti-war protesters physically attacked them with rocks, sticks or their bodies.

“It is the responsibility and obligation of the Berkeley Police Department to ensure the safety and welfare of all of the people in the City of Berkeley – not just those people who happen to agree with the City Council of City political leaders regarding the integrity and mission of the United States Marine Corps,” Sweeney wrote in the Feb. 12 letter.

“In the event a MAF supporter is injured or otherwise comes to harm as a result of the City’s failure to protect the civil rights of persons lawfully demonstrating on public property, MAF will take appropriate legal action against the City of Berkeley in order to vindicate its civil rights.”

After Sweeney delivered the letter the Berkeley officials, police did arrest four anti-war protesters who had allegedly been violent and disruptive. But others already had been injured.

“We warned the City of Berkeley and sympathizers of the peacethugs: We will not let them intimidate us with violence or any other action,” Morgan said. “We will stand for our troops. We will not falter from our mission. And we will demand that our civil rights are protected — no matter how much that bothers America-haters.”