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BERKELEY, Calif. -- As six Republican senators devised a plan to yank $2.3 million in federal funding for Berkeley programs, the mayor of the famously liberal city apologized Wednesday for his hard stance against a Marine recruiting center.
Two City Council members vowed to soften their stance as well.
At their Tuesday council meeting, leaders will discuss scrapping a letter that might be perceived as targeting the center or the Marines.
The letter said that the recruiting center was not welcome on Shattuck Avenue and that the Marines were uninvited and unwelcome intruders.
"That letter will probably be pulled back and maybe more moderate language will be put in place which is appropriate I think," said Berkeley mayor Tom Bates.
"Subtly stated in the resolution is perhaps an impugning of the soldiers fighting for us in Iraq and other places," Berkeley City Councilman Laurie Capitelli. "And that was never the intention but that really needs to be cleared up. As I walked to my car that night I realized I regretted it and I had made a mistake."
Bates said the city didn't mean to offend anyone in the armed forces and the focus should have been on the war not the troops.
The letter was originally approved in January and has not been sent.
City officials said they got a flood of e-mails, many asking them to reconsider their position.
Councilmembers have said they would replace the "intruder item" with words expressing their support for the troops but not the war in Iraq.
The Republican plan would give the funds, intended for a school lunch program, UC Berkeley and ferry service, to the Marines instead.
"Patriotic American taxpayers won't sit quietly while Berkeley insults our brave Marines," said one of the senators.
The recruiting center opened about a year ago and quickly became a target of anti-war protesters including the group Code Pink.
Last week the council passed resolutions giving Code Pink a place to park out front. Some have said that meant the city giving was giving the group a place to continuously protest the Marines.
"What we're doing is we're announcing a bill that we intend to get on the floor to strip transportation from the city of Berkeley," said East Bay Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston. "What they have done in Berkeley is they have set aside a parking spot and in my opinion a public right of way, a public transportation corridor, specifically for a private organization -- in this case Code Pink -- to harass and annoy the United States Marine Corps and their recruiting efforts. We think that playing around and having an agenda with the public right of way is subject to ramifications. There is $2.3 million in proposition 1B transportation dollars. We think that should be in jeopardy."
Others on the Berkeley City Council seemed quite firm on their stance, NBC11's Christie Smith reported.
Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Barbara Lee said they plan to fight the Republican bill.
Code Pink announced they would have what they called a "24-hour peace-in" leading up to Tuesday's city council meeting. They will be camping out but will have a lot of company. A group of pro-troop protesters will also be there.
"I was under the impression that we have the right of free speech," said Xanne Joi of Code Pink. "To me, I thought free speech meant you get to say what you want without recrimination."
Group members have made their organization infamous by intentionally getting arrested at protests and congressional hearings.
SLIDESHOW: Code Pink Images
An Olive Branch
Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak extended an olive branch to the Marines. He went to breakfast with a recruiter Thursday morning.
"Berkeley is supposed to celebrate diversity and free speech and we welcome homeless people here. We welcome illegal immigrants. We give them sanctuary. We should welcome the Marines. I mean they're basically dedicating their lives to protect their country."
Wozniak said he does not support the harsh language of the letter to the Marines originally authorized by the city.
Ann Cooper with the Berkeley Unified School District wants both sides to play nice.
"Senators sitting 3,000 miles away are trying to take food away from the children of Berkeley," said Cooper. "Why? Because the Marines and the city aren't playing nice -- and that's just not OK."