Monday, April 9, 2007

Busy Easter Week!

By Medea Benjamin

It was a busy Easter weekend for CODEPINK! In Austin, Texas on Thursday night, we joined the wonderful Gold Star Families event honoring CODEPINK and others who have supported Cindy Sheehan from the moment she started camping out at Bush’s ranch. On Friday we participated in a solemn commemoration outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford where we set up an alter and read out the names of the fallen soldiers. In the evening we had an Impeachment Forum outdoors at Camp Casey. Cindy, Ann Wright, David Swanson, Debra Sweet and I spoke about Bush’s crimes and the need for accountability.

It was starting to get cold on Friday night, but by Saturday, the temperature dropped precipitously. We awoke in the morning to FREEZING weather, but we continued to press on with our plans: an Easter egg hunt outside the checkpoint to Bush’s ranch. The night before we had made decorated over eggs with messages like Thou Shalt Not Kill, Troops Home Now, and Be an Egg-ample by Making Peace. In the morning we scattered them around the checkpoint to the ranch. Much to our surprise, the Secret Service didn’t try to stop us! About 100 people came out in the bitter cold to gather the eggs and try to deliver them to Bush. But there the Secret Service did object—refusing to let us past the barrier and refusing to take the eggs. Cindy gave an improvised talk about how Bush had ruined Easter for so many US and Iraqi families, and how he should be impeached.

Then a group of us CODEPINK women dressed up as the Pink Police—with caps, badges, and official-looking shirts—took out our crime tape and surrounded the checkpoint with it. We warned the crowd about the dangerous criminal inside, listed all the crimes he had committed, and ended with a fun song to the tune of “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad”, with the words “We defend the Constitution, We’re the Pink Police; We defend the Constitution and We defend free speech.”

By the time the action was finished, the weather turned into a full-blown snow storm, and folks from Camp Casey took refuge in a hall in town. I got a ride back to Austin to get back to San Francisco in time for our Sunday action.

After cold, stormy and conservative Texas, it was liberating to be back in beautiful San Francisco. Sunday was a gorgeous day, and we started our actions with a lovely walk over the Golden Gate bridge. The last time I had tried to cross the bridge was in January when we were commemorating the death of the 3000th US soldier in Iraq. But when we got to the bridge entrance, we were stopped by the police who not only refused to let us on the bridge “in pink”, but arrested us for insisting on our rights! This time, we came armed with a letter from the ACLU detailing our rights, which included the right to carry signs (no bigger than 2x3). In a show of overkill, though, the police actually escorted us on the pedestrian walkway of the bridge with a phalanx of police on motorcycles, on bicycles and on foot! We very wary of those people in PINK!!!

Part of the group started the walk from the San Francisco side, the other part from the Marin side, and we had a joyous meeting in the middle. We sang and cheered to the constant honks of support from the passing cars. Ah, it’s great to be back in the bay area…

From the bridge, a group walked three miles to our next stop, the home of Senator Diane Feinstein. She lives in a Pacific Heights mansion just a few blocks from Nancy Pelosi’s house. The mansion has a lovely park in front of it, where we were met by the raucous Raging Grannies singing hilarious Easter songs, and by the larger-than-life Gandhi peace puppet that often accompanies our CODEPINK actions thanks to the Gandhi Peace Brigade.

It was quite a feat getting Gandhi up the stairs to Feinstein's house!

We had made this stop at Senator Diane Feinstein's house for two reasons. One was to pressure her to stop funding the war and to support the new legislation introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold, with the support of Sen. Harry Reid that calls for the troops to be home within a year - with a fixed timetable for withdrawal.

The other reason is our concern about her conflict of interest, with her husband Dick Blum receiving multi-million dollar defense contracts while she headed the subcommittee on military construction. We feel that she and her husband have profited from this war, and they should return the profits back to the Iraqi people. Congress should also investigate the conflict of interest.

[One of the journalists who covered our Easter visits, Luke Thomas from Fog City Journal, got a response from Feinstein’s office saying: “Senator Feinstein never sought to influence which entities were awarded any military construction contracts. Neither she nor her staff ever wrote, spoke to, or influenced in any way Defense Department officials in charge of determining which entities were awarded any military construction contract….There is no conflict."]

We delivered two Easter baskets to Feinstein and Blum. One had eggs with peaceful messages; the other was full of war toys and fake money, with a message calling for them to play with the toys if they must, but stop funding and profiting off real war.

Then we pushed Gandhi up and down the Pacific Heights hills to Nancy Pelosi’s house, where were we met by a contingent of both San Francisco police and DC Capitol Police—some of whom are our old buddies who have arrested us many a time in the halls of Congress.

This time, however, they just stood by and watched as we sang, danced, ate, drank and made merry. We talked about how we would keep pushing Pelosi to stop funding the war and put impeachment back on the table.

Several intrepid CODEPINKers spent the night outside her home. The next day they tried to deliver flowers to the Speaker, with a request for a meeting. The flowers passed muster from the police, but the Speaker refused to accept them.

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