Double, double toil and trouble in Berkeley

Code Pink witches take on the U.S. Marines Corps, and broomsticks fly.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
May 9, 2008 11:51PM (UTC)
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Since last fall, Code Pink, the women's peace activist group, has been protesting the U.S. Marine Corps' operating a recruiting center in downtown Berkeley, Calif. Yet, raucous crowds and even the Berkeley City Council have not succeeded in banishing the Marines from this famously liberal enclave. So, on Friday, Code Pink decided to bring on the witches.

In a call to activists on the Web, the antiwar group appealed to "witches, crones and sirens" to come to the center to "cast spells, weave magic, invoke the foremothers, share wisdom, lead rituals to banish war and violence and bring peace" on Friday morning. At 8:15 a.m. there wasn't a lot of spell casting going on, and the crowd numbered only about a dozen protesters and counterprotesters, but there was plenty of chanting and sign waving for the Fox News cameras, which were there to capture the showdown between the Code Pink's theatrical coven and counterprotesters from the pro-military group Move America Forward, which had vowed to stage a "witch hunt" in response to Code Pink's eye-of-newt action. The antiwar activists wielded pink signs reading "Leave my grandchild alone" and "End the occupation now!" The pro-Marine protesters chanted "Witches out of Berkeley, al-Qaida out of Iraq," while one waved a sign invoking "The Wizard of Oz" that read: "Dorothy would drop her house on Code Pink witches!"


No one was burned at the stake, but the Move America Forward crew brandished broomsticks and cartons of Morton salt, along with American flags. "We're here to tell the old crones to load up on their broomsticks, and fly out of here. Leave our Marines alone!" said Melanie Morgan, the chairwoman of Move America Forward, who wore a white sweatshirt bearing the slogan "Our troops, our heroes." (The salt, another counterprotester explained, was to create a circle of salt around the recruiting center to protect it from any nefarious spells the witches might cast.)

Morgan comes from a family with six generations of military service, and says her youngest son is 16 and has been talking to the Marines about enlisting when he's of age. She believes that the Iraq war has made Americans safer and stabilized the Middle East: "Global jihad is a real and present danger, and anyone who believes otherwise is delusionally suicidal."

Zanne Joi, a Code Pinker, explained that the group's witch, crone and siren theme was part of a week of actions at the Marine recruiting center aimed at reclaiming Mother's Day's radical roots. Joi quoted the words of Julia Ward Howe, the social activist and author, who in her 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation declared: "We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."


Radical witches, OK. Activist crones, sure, why not? But who ever heard of a protesting siren? "Sirens entice men to do things that they don't want to do," Joi explained. "The Marines don't want to leave Berkeley, and Bush doesn't want to leave Iraq. But they must."

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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