- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) The cost of free speech may be going up in Berkeley.

This left-leaning city with a proud history of snubbing companies with questionable political ties is now the target of a threatened boycott over its stance on the war against terrorism.

In the two weeks since the City Council passed a resolution urging the government to stop bombing Afghanistan "as soon as possible," hundreds of people have called and sent e-mail vowing to boycott stores and restaurants.

Business owners say it will be some months before they can say with certainty whether the vote took an economic toll.

But the worry is real.

"It feels awful," said Mayor Shirley Dean, who was among the four council members who did not vote for the resolution. "My sense is that it's serious."

Miss Dean points to the nearly 900 e-mails and letters forwarded to the council this week, the overwhelming majority of which are negative. One writer vowed to "never, I repeat never, buy so much as a bottle of water from your city again."

Brij Misra, general manager of the Radisson Hotel Berkeley Marina, said he lost a banquet because organizers were angry about the vote. "We need to think locally before we act globally," he said.

The vote in question came Oct. 16 when five of the more liberal council members urged the government to "break the cycle of violence" and end the roots of oppression that "tend to drive some people to acts of terrorism."

The four other members abstained. The council also condemned the September 11 attacks, grieved the mass murder of thousands of people that day and acknowledged the heroic response.

The vote was the council's latest foray into national politics. A few years ago, the city boycotted six oil companies for doing business with governments considered oppressive, and it criticized a seventh for its environmental record.

Now Berkeley could be on the receiving end.

Lee Jester, owner of the furniture store, Craftsman Home, said one customer complained but "God knows how many customers just never said anything, just stopped coming."

"I wish the City Council would just concern itself on city matters," he said.


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