These are from Friday, April 18th 2008 in Berkeley, CA. This is the third Friday of the month which is World Can't Wait's big day at the USMC Officer Selection Office in Berkeley (aka "Berkeley Marine Recruiting Office"). In general on Fridays Code Pink takes the day off and WCW takes over - generally with larger crowds, especially the third Friday which is supposed to be a big day of regular, coordinated "direct actions" against the government. I have swung by lately on what are usually code pink days and there was not a single person out there, so I thought I'd give World Can't Wait a shot.
These pictures are actually taken at a couple of different times during the day. The first batch was at about 12:30 and the second batch at about 2:30. It was trivial to find parking within a block both times - the local businesses must be hurting; it used to take 20 minutes to find a spot in that area.
Before we really get started - here's just a bit of Berkeley randomness. The pink flamingo with the spray can is spraying "Flamingos Rule!" in front of their house. Their display changes every week or two.
Here's the overview - you can see they have some big speakers (and the matching permit) and they have blocked off what's usually the code pink parking spot (presumably they have a permit for that, too). The guys leaning against the back wall are mostly Berkeley PD. The guy in the grey shirt and white hair is fellow Nikon shooter "Leather Jacket Guy" who's a WCW regular here and in the city.
A little closer. Berkeley PD's coming over to ask them about something. I count seven police in this image and there were at least two more across the street. Last I heard Berkeley had spent $210,000 more in police overtime and associated costs (lunch) than normal since Feb 12th. The city council will point out that this wasn't necessarily for folks at the recruiting office, which is true, but you have to figure if there are anywhere from a half dozen up to dozens of cops here at any given time, that's pulling resources from someplace else, and it all amounts to the same thing. So bottom line somebody's getting overtime, but these guys shown aren't necessarily the ones.
Anyway, the police seemed to be doing a decent job - the office was open, nobody was going inside, presumably the terms of the permit were enforced. You never quite know what to expect with WCW because they have some very violent members and things will be calm one moment and there will be arrests the next but basically if the police are already there that's all it takes. I've heard them whining into their cell phones about the situation and it's clear they don't want a direct confrontation. There's some kind of irony in the fact that most of the time the police have nothing to do... but only because they're there.
Really want to show just how desolate it is. Luckily I had time to come back later.
OK, it's two hours later, and we have more people, some signs, and they're starting to use the speakers (you'll hear some in a bit). I think it's kind of fun to compare this image to the one immediately above.
Close up of the left. That green one's looks like a painting if you zoom in, but maybe it's just because it was processed so much to blow it up to poster size. It's hard to be sure because if you start searching around for Abu Ghraib pictures you find real pictures and original paintings and other forms of art, and paintings and drawings closely modeled on real photos all mixed in together.
Close up of the right. The lower left looks like a famous Abu Ghraib photo blown up. The green one on the right looks like a painting if you zoom in, but I recognize it as a famous real photo, or very close. Maybe somebody made paintings based on real photos to blow up, or maybe it's just heavy processing, or maybe it's a bit of each. I don't really know, and I don't really care - if the best examples you can come up with are from five years ago, and the people who did those deeds were sent to prison by the same government you're attacking, it's just not that impressive. Likewise the smaller pictures were of various damaged bodies but the photos could have been from anywhere - there was no context or explanation.
It's also just plain an old poster - I checked my records and found a picture of the same poster on the right from the Feb 12th protest - and I mean the same copy, there's a piece of duct tape in the same place on the right hand side. It shows up in a Zombie report as well (first section, towards the end).
The thing I don't really understand strategy-wise is that it's been demonstrated before that emotional appeals based on sickening images tend to backfire. Go to a pro-life march - you hardly ever see abortion photos anymore, because they just turn people off, forcing them to keep their distance, and the organizers make sure they present a positive message instead, or a different twist like signs saying simply "Abortion hurts women!". They still have the icky photos on their website, but it's not what you use for a first contact, especially when people are with their kids.
But I digress...
Let's really zoom in on the guy speaking over the speakers. Notice the shirt. Did I mention World Can't Wait's a Communist front? Here's a better look at one of the posters as well. Sorry to fixate on the crappy posters but the Krishna Copy Center is in sight from that location and they'll print you posters 48" wide and pretty much any length you want in full color. It just strikes me as bizarre that these people will have elaborate sound systems that can be heard a block away, and photograph each other with multi thousand dollar digital SLRs, and have multiple semi-professional video cameras pointed at each other at all times, and buy orange jumpsuits and make their own waterboarding hardware and get matching orange bandannas and they can't be bothered to walk across the street and print some decent looking posters, and maybe get new ones now and again when they start looking faded.
Update: The guy with the microphone? I didn't recognize him since he mostly had the mic in front of his face, but it was pointed out to me by MondegreenMom on YouTube that's Giovanni Jackson aka Rafael Schiller-Laden. (The first name while talking to the mainstream media, the second while causing trouble, getting arrested, etc. - I think it's mostly so if you Google a MSM quote you won't have the arrest reports popping up.) Sure enough I checked the pictures and found a better angle and that's him. No big shock - he's been arrested there before. If you want to see an official photo there's a bio of him on the page for this DVD - compare the beard and the nose. I'm not sure how much it really matters - at some point it's like stamp collecting.
And now the center - by now you should recognize the posters on either side of the frame so you can tie all this into context. That parking sign in the center - no parking every Wednesday 12-4 PM is what reserves the spot for Code Pink.
The thing that looks like a tilted bench was used later for waterboarding demonstrations and the poster board with little photos you can see behind it has pictures of what it looks like (basically, a guy holding a jug of water and looking vaguely threatening - you didn't miss anything, it's scarier in real life, I'm sure.)
If you don't see the video, try here to see it in higher quality.
But really, I think the video gives a better feel for the event. Note there's two speakers, one guy's just yelling and the guy with the amplification comes in over him. If you actually read up on the situation it's actually kind of funny - like they talk about surrounding Iraqi cities in barbed wire - um, yeah, and once they could keep insurgents out the bombings dropped way down. Regular folks just go in and out of checkpoints. It's called security, and they badly needed it. But it sure sounds bad, right?
So there you have it. One thing I can do that's hard for the mainstream media is just sort of pop by occasionally and see what happens, even if it wouldn't make a good 30 second report on the local news. I have expenses but nothing like a news van, multiple people, etc. etc. At the very least it keeps these guys from claiming they had some mammoth turnout - a tactic they use all the time if they think they can get away with it.
So to recap, what we learned today is that they're still at it, but without a whole lot of support, no code pink, no media. It's still costing the city a lot of money in police overtime and lost business. This has been going on since late 2007 and even though it's dying down I'm sure there will be some kind of occasional protesters out there. I'll try to drop by when I can and I have a couple of friends who feed me information and occasionally pictures (not every picture on this site was taken by the same person, but all the commentary is). But I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ends up looking a lot like it did at the beginning of the year, when you might have just three code pink members there.
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