We'll stop shopping when they pry the bags from our cold, dead hands: Remember back in October when Berkeley condemned the bombings in Afghanistan and enraged Americans across the land threatened to boycott Berkeley? They flooded the mayor's office with irate e-mails and calls, but they sure didn't dent the holiday shopping season.
Sales tax revenues have finally been tallied for the last quarter of 2001 and Berkeley was down 6.7 percent compared to the same period one year before, says Mary Flynn of MBIA Muni Services Company, a consultant for the city of Berkeley. But that's no big deal compared to other cities in the East Bay. Everyone experienced declines; Alameda was down 12 percent, and Oakland 7 percent. "Really, it's impossible to tell with everything going on in the economy if it had any impact whatsoever," Flynn said. "From what we can see, it really didn't have much of an impact." Either the protesters didn't try hard enough to not shop or they've never bought a thing in Berkeley to begin with.
The Intifada of Sproul Plaza: Tribal warfare has its own internal logic, a worldview that surpasseth the understanding of mere observers. April 9, for example, was a day of dueling atrocities. For the students of UC Berkeley's Israel Action Committee, this was Holocaust Remembrance Day, but for members of Students for Justice in Palestine, this was the anniversary of the 1948 massacre at the village of Deir Yassin, in which soldiers with the Jewish guerrilla faction Irgun murdered as many as 400 Palestinian civilians. Each side nurtures its own history of injustice and sees past the other's grievances. Last week, members of both groups assembled at Sproul Plaza to play out the drama of vengeance.
Up to one thousand Palestinian supporters crowded before the plaza steps, adorned with kaffiyehs and orange armbands emblazoned with that endlessly appropriated phrase, "Never Again." As the first speaker decried Deir Yassin as the first chapter in Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine, students held aloft a ten-foot banner calling on the university to divest its holdings in companies that provide weapons to the Israeli army. Two women stood dressed in black robes and kaffiyehs, playing the roles of Palestinian widows, while their erstwhile children, their hands bound and their heads covered with cloth sacks, kneeled before them. Cops with riot clubs sauntered through the audience, and officials with the Office of Student Activities nervously waited to play peacemaker.As the speakers drew applause from the crowd, a crew of forty Israel supporters hung back south of the assembly, their faces contorted in indignation. Some wrapped the flag of Israel around their shoulders, and one young man wore the camouflage shirt of the Israel Defense Force. The Israel supporters seemed merely scornful of the Palestinian speakers; it took one of their own to infuriate them. When Micah Beazant, a young Jewish kid with a skinny build and a tremulous voice, spoke of his family's Holocaust casualties, decried the practice of labeling anti-Zionist critics "self-hating Jews," and recited the Kaddish prayer for dead Palestinians, the Zionists began screaming. "Shame on you!" "Sacrilege!" "The next Holocaust is gonna be because of you!"
Van Jones, the celebrity lawyer for the Bay Area radical left, soon got into an argument with one of the hecklers. "You're interrupting prayers," he scolded. "You make yourselves look very bad."
"This is our day of remembrance, and you're demeaning all of us," the heckler retorted. "Why pick this day?"
A few speakers later, the crowd reared up and marched into campus under Sather Gate, a show of political engagement on a scale not seen here in years.
It was at Wheeler Hall that the action started. As the crowd marched past the complex of classrooms and auditoriums, two hundred people bolted right and swarmed over the sets of double doors leading to the lobby. Cops tackled the first man and jammed their knees in his back, but students flooded around them and hit the entrance. Inside, the police fanned out and tried to pull the doors shut, but each time they secured one entrance, the students raced to another set of doors and ripped it open. One cop got into a tug-of-war with a woman, each pulling at the door's handle on either side. Suddenly, the officer reversed his momentum and shoved the door forward; the frame cracked her over the eye, and she stumbled back, dazed. But the day belonged to the crowd, and after a few minutes, the police surrendered to the inevitable.
Hours would pass before the cops finally got around to arresting the protesters, and as they sat chanting in the lobby, other students sat in classrooms to the side, reading Bakunin and Derrida. Randy Barnes, the president of the Israel Action Committee, walked past the line of Palestinian supporters propping one of the doors open, edged around the cops near a stairwell, and stood arms akimbo, smirking in the midst of the crowd. Palestinian backers eyed him warily but went about their business, and when the press saw him in the midst of his enemies, they rushed over with cameras and spotlights for a second round of interviews. A few protesters drifted over and began to dangle Palestine flags in the camera's background, but nervous demonstration leaders rushed over, slid between them and Barnes, and nudged them away. Meanwhile, the cops surveyed the scene but hung back, and a surprising sense of decorum was in the air.
The Intifada of Redwood Summer: It's a crappy time to take the FBI to court -- even Bay Areans feel sympathy for our men in tweed as they hunt the terrorists who threaten to disrupt our TV-viewing schedules. But last week -- after ten years of delays and the death of the star plaintiff -- the civil rights lawsuit filed long ago by late Earth First! bombing victim Judi Bari and her ex-beau Darryl Cherney finally went to trial in Oakland federal court. (A quick refresher course: Bari and Cherney were injured in 1990 when a hidden car bomb underneath the driver's seat detonated with the couple in the car, maiming Bari in the process. The federales caringly responded by arresting the two injured activists. A year later, Bari and Cherney sued the FBI and Oakland cops for false arrest and other things that infringed on their right to make bad protest music.)
With the odds against them, the Redwood Summer Justice Project, the plaintiffs' legal defense fund, put out an advisory to Bari-philes prior to the trial, suggesting how to score points with the potentially FBI-friendly jury: One, pack the 75-seat courtroom throughout the expected six weeks the trial will last; two, because of heightened security, keep those pocket knives and scissors at home; and finally, our favorite, honor courtroom decorum. "The jury can be influenced by everything that takes place in the courtroom, including the presence, behavior, and appearance of our supporters," the advisory cautioned. "Although it might at times be difficult to resist, please no sneering, whispering, booing, guffawing, or otherwise bad behavior." Discreet nose picking is permitted.
Speaking of Christmas: El Cerrito has sadly bid farewell to one of its most famous residents, who died last week at the age of 101. For fifty years, former El Cerrito Historical Society president Sundar Shadi had turned out elaborate lawn displays for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the latter so extensive it attracted an estimated 70,000 viewers a year. Now a group of Shadi fans led by former town mayor Jane Bartke are trying to find a way to preserve, store, and eventually display his massive collection of seasonal lawn ornaments. What to do with dozens of sculptures of Thanksgiving turkeys, Halloween creatures, and the entire cast of characters from the Christmas Nativity display? If we may, a few suggestions:
* Rent out wise men as third passengers for Bay Bridge carpoolers.
* Light-up Santas could double as cheerful landing strip lights at Oakland Airport.
* Halloween monsters decked out in the Silver and Black could be used to fill empty seats at the Coliseum, getting around that irritating blackout rule and blending in nicely with the Raider Nation.
* Strategically place shepherds and flocks in the middle of dangerous crosswalks to cut down on red-light running.
* Turkey bowling at the Albany Bowl?
Seven Days - March 21, 8:22 PM
Seven Days - March 21, 7:27 PM
Seven Days - March 20, 10:54 AM
Seven Days - March 16, 1:22 PM