The Express received an email that was (apparently) making the rounds of local media this morning, announcing that the US Marine Corps was about to vacate the downtown Berkeley space where it has maintained an officer-recruitment center since last year. The announcement indicated that representatives from the Marines would speak at a press conference at the center at noon today, along with representatives from Code Pink, the group whose protests outside the recruitment center have drawn national attention. The landlord from whom the Marines rent the space was also listed among the scheduled speakers. The announcement declared that a joyous celebration would follow.
Today being April 1, the smell of fish filled the air and a little bird whispered, Hoax. But perpetrated by whom? Contact numbers were provided in the announcement, including a number at the Marines headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.
The officer who answered the phone there said he’d been deluged with calls on this matter all morning, but (1) he hadn’t been told by any colleagues that the Marines might be leaving Berkeley, and (2) his department has nothing to do with recruitment or the media, and his number seemed to have been chosen at random.
A few more calls down the line, Marines Recruiting Command spokesperson Major Wes Hayes confirmed that the email was based on a fib.
“The Berkeley recruiting office,” he said, “is remaining where it is. It’s going to be open and its operation and mission remains the same. We’re going to continue to do what the American public expects us to do, and that is to recruit America’s finest young men and women.”
A jaunt to the recruiting center at noon found a coterie of Code Pink activists, including Medea Benjamin. Why, they’d staged the hoax themselves! A row of police officers (whoops — more overtime to add to the $200,000-plus that Berkeley taxpayers have already spent on Marines-protestalia) watched as the activists posed for local news cameras and declared victory … over the Marines … who aren’t actually leaving.
At a podium bearing a sign saying “LANDLORD,” a man portraying the Marines’ landlord announced to the small crowd that although “this is a city where I can make a dollar — where I can make many dollars” — he had been persuaded by the protesters to cancel the Marines’ lease.
“Cancel the lease! Cancel the lease!” activists chanted in unison.
The mock landlord continued: “Now that the Marines will be leaving, we will all come together as a peaceful community. … I feel so much better in my soul.”
“Celebration!” one activist shouted.