I don't live in Berkeley. I live just down the hill a ways, in Oakland. That doesn't mean I'm not familiar with it. On the contrary, I find myself confronting the various shades of reality found in our neighbor to the north on a regular basis. I lived in a college town growing up, and I am used to the profoundly politically charged environment that they can foster.
For example, I have witnessed the "tree-sitters" in all their glory on a number of occasions as I have gone to the University for various sporting events and outings. The "tree sitters" are a group of zealots who are hoping to protect the oaks, redwoods, laurels and other trees in the grove from a University of California plan to build a one hundred and twenty-five million dollar sports training center. They "celebrated" a year in their perches in December, and show little sign of giving in. It kept the folks from ESPN from bringing Lee Corso out to the stadium, while it caught the attention of a number of other visiting announcers over the past fall's football season. If this were Norman, Oklahoma, I'm guessing these folks would have lasted a couple of days, not a couple of years.
Then there's the Marine Recruiting Station on Shattuck Avenue. Pity the poor Berkeley youth that gets it into his head to sign up to be one of the few, the proud, and so on. A consortium of anti-war groups have succeeded in shutting down the station, along with the tacit blessing of Berkeley's city council. The council rescinded their statement that the Marines were "unwelcome" in their city, but made no public apology for their initial outburst: "we recognize the recruiter's right to locate in our city and the right of others to protest or support their presence." Fox News ate that up with a spoon for a few weeks. Even "The Daily Show" managed to get a few minutes of silliness out of the giddy hippie reverie.
And now Berkeley has banned smoking on sidewalks in all commercial areas. It also stops smoking in parks and recreation areas; near ATMs; bus stops and taxicab stands; within twenty-five feet of doorways and windows of buildings open to the public; and within fifty feet of buildings used for health care, child care or senior centers. If this sounds like a lot of extra work for your average law enforcement officer, you'd be right. What with all the various new statutes and protests going on, I suspect that the Berkeley police department might just have to call in the Marines.