A student group at the University of California at Berkeley took to a campus plaza this morning to protest the student government's proposal to ban Salvation Army donation bins on campus.

The Young Americans for Liberty at UC Berkeley, a campus libertarian group, started their protest around 10 a.m. at Sproul Plaza to speak out against a November decision by the Associated Students of the University of California Senate to ban the charitable group from campus because of its alleged homophobic practices.

The protest, led by group president Nils Gilbertson, a junior political science major, was also a fundraiser for the Salvation Army with students mimicking the organization's holiday tradition of bell ringing.

Gilbertson said the senate's unanimous vote in November to ban all donation bins from the Salvation Army, which has been under fire for allegedly discriminating against gay and lesbians, is not representative of the student body.

"If they are charities doing good work we want them to be able to see them on campus," Gilbertson said.

The Young Americans for Liberty were also gathering signatures for a petition to show the administration that students do not support banning the Salvation Army.

Gilbertson called it "ridiculous" to kick a charitable group off campus, especially one that collects food and clothing for those less fortunate in the Alameda County community.

As the protest was ending around 1 p.m., Gilbertson said the group had collected about $40 and 50 signatures.

The November senate bill that proposed the ban stated "Cal is home to students of a multitude of backgrounds, including queer students, who may take offense to the presence of collection containers operated by a discriminatory religious organization in their places of living."

The bill continued, "Students may not be aware that their donations to the Salvation Army may be used in part to hire lobbyists to oppose sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws."

Marty Takimoto, spokesman for UC Berkeley housing, said the housing department is looking into the allegations against the Salvation Army.

If information surfaces linking Salvation Army to discriminatory action, the bins at a few residential halls will be removed and alternative organizations contacted to set up donations, he said.

In the meantime, the collection bins will remain, Takimoto said.

There are bins at one undergraduate residential hall and at the graduate family housing complex in Albany, according to Takimoto.

"We promote a very inclusive community in our residential halls and encourage our students to practice social justice," Takimoto said.

The senate bill, which has yet to take effect, proposes that the executive student office inform the university chancellor and student body about the purportedly discriminatory practices of the Salvation Army and to support other charity organizations.

SashaLekach0658p12/13/12

CONTACT: Marty Takimoto, spokesman for UC Berkeley housing (510) 642-0622 or (510) 384-1940 cellphone

Nils Gilbertson, UC Berkeley Young Americans for Liberty (650) 799-5506

UC Berkeley media relations (510) 642-3734



Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. republication, re-transmission or reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.