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CodePink Protests are Hurting a Berkeley Businesswoman

1 September 2008 No Comment

Story by Linsay Rousseau Burnett

Shahin Saki, owner of the Z & S Beauty Studio in Berkeley’s Shattuck Square, is feeling the economic crunch on her business. But her customers are not leaving because of problems on Wall Street; they’re leaving because of problems on Saki’s street.

Sahari Saki's story is hidden behind the CodePink truck.

Sahari Saki's salon is hidden behind the CodePink truck

In January 2007, The United States Marine Corps Officer Selection Station moved in next door to Saki. A few months later, the organization CodePink began protesting outside the selection station. One year later, these protests still persist every Wednesday.

“We’ve lost a lot of business and I don’t know how we’ll get it back,” said the soft-spoken Saki as she looked out the window of her salon, her family’s sole source of income and a business she’s run the last 19 years, since she fled the Iran-Iraq war .

Saki has witnessed it all. Somewhere behind the hundreds of people, the pink flatbed truck and the pink banners is her store.

She is concerned that no one can see her salon when the protestors are outside. Her clients have no parking; city police often prevent them from walking to the salon, and they are nervous sitting by the window.

But, a year later, the number of protestors who show up each Wednesday are a fraction of what they used to be.

Leeza Vinogra, a 71-year-old retired nurse, has been coming to the CodePink protests every Wednesday since they started.

Saki's store behind a CodePink banner

Shahin Saki's store behind the banner

Vinogra blames recruiters for what is going on in Iraq. She said that the selection station “insinuated themselves into the city. They’re stealthy.”

Saki said the Marine selection station does not try to conceal the protestors from potential recruits. They even displays photos from some of the larger more colorful demonstrations on their website.

Vinogra said CodePink will not give up, even in the face of harassment, or, when, as she claimed, government officials take away their permits.

The permits are required when large groups of people assemble in one place and when sound amplifiers are used. Lisa Corona, Berkeley’s Deputy City Manager, said that no permits were taken away but that CodePink previously had a 90-day permit and has not applied for a new one.

No one from the Marine selection office was available for comment.  In a statement by former Bay Area Selection Officer Cpt. Rickard Lund, published in the Berkeley Daily Planet last year, he said he supported the protestors’ freedom of speech. But he also said the protestors’ anger is misdirected at people who have no control over policy issues.

“War is made by politicians. The conflict in Iraq was ordered by the president and authorized by Congress,” he said.

When asked why she wasn’t protesting the local ROTC and JROTC programs, Vinogra did not have an answer.

Shahin Saki watches police arrest CodePink protesters

Shahin Saki watches police arrest CodePink protesters

She also said that she never protested recruiting stations in the past because she “didn’t know there was anything to protest.” She would consider continuing her protest after the wars in the Middle East are over “as long as there are other protesters with me.”

Saki hopes that is not the case.

While Saki is opposed to war and killing, in the last year, she said that, “the only new customers I’ve gotten are three CodePink protestors and one Marine.”

She would like to visit City Hall and formally complain, but is unable to find the time between her work and her children.

For Saki, an Iranian, the war in Iraq has taken on new meaning. As the protests continue, she will do the only thing she can do. Watch.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps’ San Francisco Officer Selection Station

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