Confrontations over matters of war and peace have long been part of the scene in the "People's Republic of Berkeley," a university town famous for having its own foreign policy and one of a very few places in the country capable of making San Francisco, located a few miles west across the Bay, seem almost conservative by comparison.
Lately, the confrontations have become more heated than usual as protesters take aim at a Marine Corps officer recruiting center a block from the University of California's flagship campus, birthplace of the 1960s Free Speech Movement.
The protests have turned a small downtown storefront next to a beauty salon into a nationally known flashpoint over U.S. foreign policy. It's forging a new alliance of teenage anti-war demonstrators and grizzled veterans of "Bezerkeley's" Flower Power era, who have been lining up against a smaller but vocal crowd of military backers.
Lately, the lively Berkeley street scene has taken another twist: Military opponents have latched onto the idea of using local ballot initiatives to combat recruiting, chiefly as a way of registering opposition to the war in Iraq.