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Berkeley Revives Activism

By Philip P. Pan

While the military analysts debate the similarities and differences between the Persian Gulf crisis and the Vietnam War, some students have already attempted to revive the anti-war activism that dominated college campuses during the 1960s and early '70s.

Less than two weeks ago, a crowd of more than 300 students rallied at the University of California at Berkeley to protest the American military presence in the Middle East. One of the protestors, a 23-year-old Marine reserve corporal named Erik Larsen, told the crowd that he would refuse orders to be activated.

While the protest did attract national media attention, many Berkeley students say that anti-war activism probably will not reach the fervor of the Vietnam era anytime soon.

Nevertheless, the Persian Gulf crisis has managed to spark heated debate inside and outside the classroom. Students say that there are flyers everywhere about the crisis and that the whole scenario in the Middle East has become a hot conversation topic.

Some activists are so sure that fighting will break out in the Gulf that they have already made plans for a large demonstration days after the first shots are fired.

"There are people who are very emotional about the issue," says Ravid Haselkorn, a first-year student at Berkeley. "Some people view the crisis romantically and are saying, `Let's go kick their butts,' while others are really worried about going through another Vietnam."

But students say that the commotion over the Persian Gulf crisis is much less intense than it was during the Vietnam War--if only because students have other issues on their mind.

At a rally last week, undergraduates locked themselves in laboratory cages for 24 hours to protest the use of animals in scientific research, and many Berkeley students say that animal rights has now unseated the Persian Gulf as the hottest issue.

"Something happens every week here," says Haselkorn. "Who knows what it will be next week."

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