February 13, 2008 / 9:26 PM / 12 years ago

Liberal Berkeley says Marines are welcome after all

BERKELEY, Calif., Feb 13 (Reuters) - The city council of Berkeley, California reversed on Wednesday a decision to tell U.S. Marine Corps recruiters they were unwelcome in the ultra-liberal college town.

The decision came early on Wednesday, after council members listened to four hours of testimony from anti-war and pro-military protesters, many of whom had camped outside City Hall since Monday night.

The council withdrew plans to send letters to Marine headquarters and its local office stating that recruiters would be considered "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

It also approved a statement recognizing the recruiters’ right to do their jobs in the city and the rights of others to support or protest their presence.

"We deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces. However, we strongly oppose the war and the continued recruitment of our young people into this war," the statement read.

Located across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley has long been a hotbed of antiwar sentiment and saw many protests against the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s.

About 2,000 people demonstrated on Tuesday while police in riot gear stood on hand to keep order, the city’s largest protest since 1991, police said. Four demonstrators were arrested in minor altercations.

The town is the site of the prestigious University of California, Berkeley and several other colleges.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, a retired U.S. Army Captain, said that he did not feel the events, which generated national headlines, had embarrassed the city.

"I’m very proud of what we’ve done, because it’s raised the issue," Bates said. "The war had been pushed to the side - on page nine of the newspapers, but now it’s back on page one."

The Marine Corps, which did not return requests for comment, is the only service branch to operate a recruiting station in Berkeley. (Reporting by Amanda Beck; Editing by Alan Elsner)

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