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But Berkeley has been shaken up by Sept. 11 too. And while the cause of protest goes on, its effects have been wildly unpredictable. Take that council resolution, only the latest in a long line to address situations, from South Africa to Tibet, for which the city felt it needed a foreign policy. By the time it was passed, it had been watered down to a call to "break the cycle of violence" by bringing the bombing to a halt "as soon as possible." Even then, the vote was deeply divided. But diluting the resolution made no difference. Thousands of boycott threats started pouring in to the place that practically taught America how to boycott. "We're getting e-mails saying, 'I'm not going to spend another dime in Berkeley,'" says Reid Edwards, chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Which is hardly good timing for a city with more than 3,000 mom-and-pop outfits, most of which make at least half their sales between Halloween and New Year's. The city's lumber suppliers are seeing orders rescinded by angry customers. The general manager of the Radisson Hotel Berkeley Marina said a local ROTC group canceled a dinner for 250. And some people in nearby San Francisco have decided against buying Berkeley properties.
Campus protesters shrug off the boycott threats as unfocused. "It's not as if people aren't shopping on Telegraph Avenue," the city's main artery, says Snehal Shingavi, one of the leaders of Berkeley's Stop the War coalition. "I think it was quite heroic what the council did." Berkeley's version of heroism dates back to the Free Speech Movement of 1964, when students first used civil disobedience to overturn a ban on campus activism. Four decades later, that activism may be less dramatic, but it is at least more colorful. Marches these days include the visually arresting 20-ft. peace puppets wielded by local artists' collective Art and Revolution. "The face of protest has changed," says collective member David Solnit. "The tragedy of Sept. 11 lent itself to talking from the heart and gut."
But this conflict is no Vietnam, and Shingavi admits he's having trouble wooing a significant number of students off the sidelines. More troubling for old-time Berkeleyites, he has competition from a pro-war group. Berkeley USA, established in the wake of Sept. 11, has handed out more than 1,500 U.S. flags since the bombing began. Co-founder Sean Wycliffe is a fast-talking freshman who wants to be a stock trader. He says he's "sickened" by the council's resolution. "It's not their place to do any of this. They should be fixing roads and stuff."
Wycliffe and his cohort may soon get their wish. Berkeley is gentrifying fast. Its median house price is four times the national average, thanks to an influx of yuppie couples and dot-commers who have spent the past decade bidding up the prices of two-bedroom bungalows. And because California banned affirmative action in 1996, U.C. Berkeley is becoming less diverse, with the number of "underrepresented minorities" on the decline. The probusiness mayor got 60 percent of the vote in the last election. And an assemblywoman is planning to run against Barbara Lee the member of Congress for Berkeley and Oakland who cast the lone vote against war with a campaign titled "It's O.K. to Love America." For now, Berkeley's woes have inspired the town of Santa Cruz, another former hippie haven down the California coast, to quietly shelve its own antiwar resolution. Making foreign policy, it seems, can be bad for business.