"An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind": It was a mellow but steadfast crowd that gathered outside Berkeley's downtown BART station last Tuesday to protest our nation's movement toward war. Rally organizers like Barbara Lubin of the Middle East Children's Alliance roused the crowd with calls for justice (and, from various speakers, random harangues on popular progressive issues like the battles over KPFA, the Judi Bari trial, and a planned new super-jail in Alameda County), but some of the hundred-odd protesters weren't even listening to the speakers. "It doesn't really matter what they're saying," a few Berkeley grad students told us. "It's just a matter of showing support, so people in other parts of the country see that not everyone wants war."
Notable locals in attendance included Berkeley Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio, '60s veteran Wavy Gravy, Global Exchange founder Medea Benjamin, Art and Revolution members sporting their distinctive giant puppets, and Inkworks collective members, who had created a number of the "Justice, Not Vengeance" posters protesters held aloft. Inkworks also circulated fliers quoting the text of the speech delivered by local Congresswoman Barbara Lee(who, of course, logged the sole vote against the federal bill authorizing the use of military force). "This resolution will pass," Lee said, "although we all know that the President can wage a war even without it. But I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful memorial service today. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, 'As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.'" Lee was applauded time and again at Tuesday's rally.As the crowd marched west down University Avenue, the subdued chants were met by frequent honks and thumbs-up from drivers (except for one jolly SUV-driver shouting "Fuck you, motherfuckers!"). As we passed a deli staffed by folks from the Middle East, one eager protester ran through the crowd. "Anyone got any fliers left?" he asked, anxiously. "We got some Arabs over here, and they need one!"
Low pay by the bay: Employees at Skates on the Bay, an upscale restaurant located at the Berkeley Marina, filed a complaint with the city alleging that Skates has not complied with the city's living-wage law since it was enacted last year. The ordinance, originally passed in June 2000 and later amended to include businesses in the Marina Zone, requires that companies doing business with the city pay their employees at least $9.75 with benefits or $11.37 an hour without. Skates employees, some of whom say they make as little as $6.25 an hour, have taken their case to the city manager's office, which has not decided whether it will conduct an investigation.This is the first complaint that the city has received from employees who believe they are covered under the living-wage law. But even if the city determines that Skates is in the wrong, there may not be much that it can do. In most cases, the living-wage ordinance applies to companies that do business with the city. That means a living-wage requirement can be built into that contract, and penalties can be exacted if the business does not comply with the wage law. But the city doesn't have specific contracts with the four businesses in the Marina Zone -- they just happen to reside on city-owned property -- so the normal penalty procedure will not apply. The workers, however, are free to take the matter to court.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Skates on the Bay's parent company, Restaurant Unlimited Inc., is pending. No word on when it will be heard.
The lonely stand of Barbara Lee: If you don't think these are tough times to be a leftist, take a look at the drubbing that Congresswoman Barbara Lee's been getting. Although the local press has commended her for the will it must have taken to break with the otherwise unanimous congressional vote authorizing military action, the national right-wing media sank their teeth into her hide and haven't let go since. World Net Daily, a right-wing Web site that enjoys free advertising on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, recently wrote a piece titled "Lone House Dissenter's Extremist History." "Barbara Lee... is a longtime friend of Communist Party militant Angela Davis who succeeded another radical from the city of Oakland, Representative Ron Red Dellums," read the story, which rehashed her work on behalf of Grenada in the '80s and her friendship with Carlton Goodlett, the editor of the old Sun-Reporter and a 1970 recipient of the Lenin Prize. Rush Limbaugh has gone so far as to post pictures of Lee's facial expressions as she listened to President Bush's address to Congress last week. Lee's not the only prominent progressive who has felt the sting of excessive patriotism. Two weeks ago, on right-wing pundit Sean Hannity's radio show, a caller suggested that the US reopen its internment camps and jail Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, whose coverage of the attack from inside Manhattan's evacuation zone, broadcast on KPFA, has been exemplary.
Life in Hell: Meanwhile, some elements of the left have succumbed to their own kind of lunacy. When the Daily Californian ran a cartoon characterizing the terrorists as turbaned Muslims burning in hell, a crowd of protesters stormed the paper's offices and vowed to occupy them until their demands -- which included an apology and a seat on the editorial board -- were met. Instead, police arrested them after a ten-hour standoff. The next day, someone hacked into the Daily Cal's Web site and posted among the banner headlines a phony apology for "allowing a political cartoon filled with prejudice to be posted on the site." "Well-known editorial cartoonist Darrin Bell drew the cartoon," the apology continued. "It was sad to see one of our own alumni participate in such acts of prejudice." Hackers hit the Daily Cal again the following day, shutting down the Web site altogether. It was interesting to see that members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary, the Trotskyist cult which has undermined student organizing for almost a decade, were in the crowd that occupied the Daily Cal's offices. BAMN members Yvette Felarca and Ronald Cruz have started another front group called the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition. Although BAMN has a history of picking on the student newspaper, it's unlikely that they were responsible for hacking into the Web site; the apology included extensive quotations from the Koran, and BAMN's politics are too rigid to tolerate spirituality.
Before the Daily Cal managed to distract everyone with its alleged transgressions, twenty local environmentalists held a brief demonstration in front of the Express' Emeryville offices earlier in the week. They were protesting the printing of a photo on the paper's front page of late Earth First!er Judi Bari holding an Uzi ("The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari," September 12). In the words of one protester, the running of the image conveyed a message that Bari was a "gun-toting terrorist." Meanwhile, lawyers for Bari compatriot Darryl Cherney have persuaded US District Court Judge Claudia Wilken to postpone the trial in Cherney's false arrest lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland police until April. The trial had been scheduled to begin October 1, but attorney Dennis Cunningham argued that the recent terrorist attacks made it impossible get an impartial jury. "The American people are depending on the FBI," Cunningham told the Associated Press; "they are rooting for the FBI, they are identifying with the FBI in hopes that the perpetrators will be identified."_On the more mundane political front: Ex-Berkeley mayor Loni Hancock is supposed to be out of the country with hubby Tom Bates until January. The message on her home answering machine says she and Tom will be incommunicado until 2002. But for a couple of weeks now, there have been rumblings that Hancock is going to run for her husband's old Assembly seat. Oakland Vice Mayor Jane Brunner, who plans to run for the seat despite being drawn out of the district recently, tells 7 Days that Hancock has been making calls around town hinting that she's going to vie for a job in Sacramento.
Hancock no doubt would have the support of Assemblywoman Dion Aroner (Bates' old chief of staff) and Rep. Barbara Lee. Speaking of Aroner and Lee, it's interesting to note that the two have apparently kept looking for credible female candidates to run for the seat even though like-minded progressive Kriss Worthington had already declared his candidacy. Neither Aroner nor Lee have endorsed Worthington, and there was speculation that Aroner privately had been encouraging Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin to run.Hancock couldn't be reached for comment. But Lee recently told a confidant that Hancock is indeed seriously interested in making a bid for the Assembly. If she does run, that raises the question of what Worthington will do. The Berkeley councilmember, most recently in the news for the Japanese Boy Scout flap, has always insisted that he'd withdraw from the Assembly race if a credible non-Perata progressive decided to join the fray.
"I don't want to turn into the kind of politician that I've always been against," Worthington says. "I've always said that if there were a progressive woman or person of color, I'd step aside."
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