Wednesday, May 30, 2007
First and foremost, please let me thank you for all you have sacrificed, your son, your family and your life to help show America that this war is wrong. And it is so wrong. And the American public's apathy is so wrong. And those who have tried to tear you down are so wrong.
I agree with you as to where we are headed. Bush is becoming more Hitlerish each day. Our government's attitude towards the citizens has shifted so far to fascism that it amazes me how few are yet screaming. But folks are beginning to take notice. Three years ago, most people responded to that kind of statement from my mouth as ludicrous or at least over exaggerated. Now the reaction I get is not only that the "war is wrong", but that "our government is wrong"!
I read in your letter that you don't see folks as Republicans or as Democrats but what is in their hearts. I too am a "heart watcher" and your heart on Mother's Day while sitting on the grass with me was so pure and so true. But I felt your sadness, not only the sadness for your son and for your other three children not there with you, but your sadness for the other people that were NOT there that day, your sadness for the millions who just don't get that this war is so wrong.
But I believe there are a number of people that are beginning to wake up and realize that the only answer for our planet is peace. That the only solution to our World's existence is peace. That the only journey worth taking is creating a life of peace. There are old ones and young ones coming forward. A new kind of humanity that you have inspired, as have many others have before you, and along with you. There will always be those who try to create chaos but there are more of us joining daily who are willing to get past those differences and trouble makers. There is a new surge of activists on their way to carry on this work for peace.
You said in your letter that neither party can hear the other and so I will dare to repeat to you, what one of your adversaries said in reaction to your resignation. "Most of us... understand that she is hurt very deeply." and they hope that you "will now be able to heal". You have sacrificed so much Cindy, even the time that you should have had to heal from such a great loss. Please know that there are millions of us that love you, respect you and admire all that you have done. We will miss you and your heart but I believe we will see each other again, as I know you when you are truly needed, you will stand up for peace.
My little girl, Autumnrain was so proud to meet you and be there with you on Mother's Day in DC. She considers you a heroine, as do I. I'm not going to tell Autumnrain that you are resigning, I am going to tell her that you've gone home to rest and to heal. That you have served your time honorably, as did Casey and have fought the toughest of fights. But all tours must come to an end and so it's time for you to return home. Heal Cindy and be at peace.
Deidra Lynch CODEPINK Orlando
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
For Memorial Day, I wanted participate in a pro-peace action that did not dishonor or threaten the pro-troop, pro-military activities happening throughout the city. I believe, like Code Pink, that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home safe and whole as soon as possible. Over the weekend, I get an email from Gael about a young man, Nick Kimbrell, a just-graduated Masters student from University of Virginia who is walking from Charlottesville to the White House in support of bringing the troops home. He (in cooperation with folks from World Can’t Wait) is asking for people to meet him at the Key Bridge Marriott and walk the last mile and a half to the White House. Here, I thought, is the perfect opportunity to support peace without “dishonoring” the troops—after all, Nick’s walk IS to bring the troops home.
The majority of Pink House population return Sunday night from a road trip to New York, where they protested Veep Dick Cheney’s speech to the graduating class of West Point, and supported the Iraq Veterans Against War’s actions in the streets of NYC. The new summer intern, Ena, comes with them; she and I get acquainted and offer to be in charge of props for the next day’s walk. After a brilliant breakfast (huevos rancheros—thanks Celeste ;-), Ena and I head down to the Peace Room and produce several posters (“Honor the Fallen; Make WAR a Memory”, “War is not Healthy for Soldiers and Other Living Things”, and “Thank You Peace Walker Nick Kimbrell”) as well as working on a supersize “Support the Troops—Bring them Home” banner. As the heat and humidity of Washington begin to settle on the house, Desiree says, “Let’s go down to the waterfront at Georgetown and just be a pink presence,” a suggestion met with grateful enthusiasm by all residents. Clad in pink slips (for Bush and Cheney) with sashes, hats, and parasols, five of us drive down and strolled along the waterfront.
The response is strong and gratifying. Individuals and small groups of people—out for a leisurely holiday afternoon of boating and relaxing—approach us, ask about Code Pink and our mission. When they hear we want to end the war and bring the troops home, they are overwhelming in their support.
“We have a friend who’s over there, and he’s writing home, telling his mom and us about how bad it is and how we shouldn’t be there,” a pair of young women from New Jersey tells us. “But former friends of his have told him to take them off his email list—that they don’t want to hear that.” I am shocked that people are not willing to listen to a soldier on the front lines telling them how wrong this war is, these US people here, safe and comfortable with their SUVs and their ability to continue to buy $3/gallon oil. That $3/gallon at the pump, however, fails to reflect the billions spent on the war and the priceless young lives lost and destroyed by it. **(See Retired Colonel Ann Wright’s article on how the US’s continued presence in Iraq is primarily to make sure private corporations get to control the oil: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/052607Z.shtml ; and join Faleh Abood Umara, General Secretary of the Iraq Federation of Oil Workers and Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, President of the Iraq Electrical Utility Workers Union at Offices of Bearing Point (80 M St. , SE – near Navy Yard Metro), Tuesday 5 June 5:00 pm, the company contracted by USAID to rewrite the Iraqi Oil laws.)
Our pinkness makes a colorful and apparently welcoming presence, as people approach us constantly asking to have pictures taken. Liz talks to everyone about political action: “Have you called your congresspersons? We need you—AMERICA needs you—to stop this war and these war criminals.” Despite the seriousness of our cause, the afternoon is festive and fun. As we leave the waterfront to walk back up to M Street, the main shopping avenue in Georgetown, we pass the apartment building where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently bought a flat. We decide to stop in.
The doorman is incredibly polite and welcoming, as he ushers us into the cool, tasteful lobby. Dim and inviting, it is decorated with pots of dramatic orchids and original oil paintings. The desk clerk, an East Indian, rings Representative Pelosi’s apartment but gets no answer. “She must’ve forgotten our appointment,” ponders Desiree convincingly—we don’t want to get anyone in trouble here. But the desk clerk invites us to leave a message, pulling out one of those standard “While you were out …” message books with—AHA!—pink pages! All five of us take the time to leave Rep. Pelosi a personal message thanking her for voting against the supplemental funding bill that passed last week (a blank check for the President and his war) and asking her to bring the troops home. As each of us waits her turn to write a message, the desk clerk talks to us. “India, my home country, is a democracy,” he notes (yes, the world’s largest) “and we believe in democracy, but we do not try to force other countries to have democracy. We are right next to Pakistan, a military dictatorship. We encourage them toward democracy through our business and diplomatic channels, but we do not us military force.” His criticism of US policy, while oblique, is evident. We spend more time talking to him about US support for Pakistani Military Leader and President Musharif, as well as about India’s difficulty in maintaining democratic processes in the face of globalisation. It’s a productive and invigorating chat, and again I am awed by how much better people from outside the US understand the very policies and political structures that we arrogantly claim to lead the world in.
Just outside Ms. Pelosi’s building, we encounter three young local boys, collecting money for their basketball team. They grin for pictures with us, and tell us they’ll go to our website to get copies of the photos for their MySpace pages. Their open, innocent faces remind me of why we’re out here.
M Street’s narrow sidewalks are crowded and the response is more muted, though we do get a few honking horns and friendly peace fingers from folks. On Celeste’s recommendation, we stop in at Clydes for drinks and make new friends with patrons and bartender, Jenny.
When we get to the Key Bridge Marriott, several people from World Can’t Wait and Grassroots for America are there waiting for Nick. We all stand on the corner of Lee Highway holding our posters—the other folks have arresting photos of an Earth in flames, based on satellite photos. The number of “Honks for Peace” is gratifying—especially from people in luxury cars.
Finally, at just before 8 pm, Nick hobbles down the hill with his mom, who has walked the last 10 miles with him. His feet have become incredibly blistered and infected—“I thought I might not make it,” he admits—and he has an unexplained swelling on his left shin, but he is smiling and grateful for our welcome. A tall, broad-shouldered, blue-eyed young man, Nick is not only handsome, well-traveled and politically sophisticated, he has undergraduate degrees (with honors) in three different areas from the University of Virginia as well as a recently completed Masters. “I’ve traveled all over the world, partied with people in far corners of the Earth, and had the most incredibly privileged life,” he told me. “I had to do something about this war—this was the least I could do.” Nick is cheerful and gregarious, despite his obvious pain and difficulty walking—even lifting his feet onto the curb is a struggle—but he does ask once that we keep moving, as stopping and starting is even more painful. Desiree and Nick’s mom cheer us on with songs: “We’re gonna Impeach George, that’s what we’re gonna do” (to the tune of “He’s Got the Whole World In his Hands”) through the twilit streets of the capital city.
By the time we reach the iron railings of the White House, it is dark. Nick stands in front facing the building, for photos to be taken of the poster on his back: “Bring Our Troops Home: Memorial Day March Charlottesville to DC.” He (and we) try to leave the poster threaded between the rails, but the capital police stop us. A young, new Marine, angered by our peace walk and protest, snatches down the poster and throws it to the ground. Do these young recruits not know the stories from returning veterans and currently serving military personnel? How can they not be listening to people on the front lines? The process of indoctrination is so powerful in this country.
Across from the White House, we stop in to see Thomas, a man who has camped here since 1981 in support of Nuclear Disarmament. Ena is awed by his vigil, which is older than she is, and stops for a chat. Despite full dark, the humidity has not abated and we are wilted; Nick is exhausted and ready to go home for a hot bath. “I’ll be going to the foot doctor tomorrow,” he smiles wryly. We hug him and extract a promise for him to visit the Pink House, then head around the corner where Celeste has the car parked and waiting.
All and all, it was a perfect Memorial Day.
May 29th, 2007, Indiana
I returned to Indiana on Sunday for a much needed recharge of the batteries (which, for me, can only be accomplished when plugged-in to the power of family). I have much to do with my family this month, business as well as recreation, I hope. It's nearly June and in Indiana the evenings are warm but not quite sultry, and I sit on the back porch with a fabric softener dryer sheet tucked into the back of my collar to fend off the mosquitoes.
Yesterday I went to the bookstore. I was looking for the Portable Dorothy Parker in my quest to slowly rebuild my library. I did not find it, but was reminded why I love bookstores and libraries. They present a chance to learn and sometimes to teach. I found a copy of "The Moon Is Always Female" a book of poems by Marge Piercy. It interested me because I am currently reading a novel by that author. Within three poems I was delighted with her work and glad that Piercy and Parker both start with "P". The other item was a real find. It was on sale on a table display. Bonus. I have read this particular work a few times over the years, but haven't since about four years ago. Thomas Paine wrote "Common Sense" in January of 1776 as a pamphlet to be sold on the street. The document was key in empowering the People of the Colonies to move toward revolution.
I am going to tackle both at once in the hope of finding both foundation and direction and return to D.C. empowered and effective.
But that's not the story that leads to the poem I am sending you.
As I stepped up to the cash register, I read aloud the Headline on the cover of Time Magazine. "Report Card on No Child Left Behind" and responded with "Don't they mean No Child Left Un-Recruited." For once, one of my anti-Bush smart-ass remarks elicited an appreciative remark from the nice young man behind the counter. "I'm still upset that they passed that funding bill, the one that pays for the war to go on," this fresh-faced young Hoosier offered. It was like rain falling in the desert.
I have long been pained by the general apathy of the residents of my home state. I have found myself driven to go to Washington D.C. to feel effective in the work to end this war because I craved a higher level of activity than I could find here in Indiana. I was frustrated by what, to me, felt like the General Public refusing to allow such timely and vital topics as an illegal war and unconstitutional occupation of Iraq to be a part of their daily thought or speech. I did not find an overwhelming amount of opposition to the thought that Congress should pass legislation that would bring our troops home safely before I began this mission with CODEPINK in D.C., but rather discovered Hoosiers "hitting the snooze". The People were hearing facts and figures that are a "wake up call", but were half-consciously pushing that little button that allowed them to get another nine minutes of foggy fitful rest. They were opting out of a full wake up, over and over.
To hear this young man, his name is Shawn, offer my own thoughts back to me, unsolicited, brought me sheer joy.
I smiled and questioned him a little more, probing to see if my ears had deceived me. But he reiterated that it was indeed the Supplemental Funding Bill that he was talking about. "I don't understand why they don't just spend the money they have to spend to bring them home right now." I introduced myself as Lori and said that I had been splitting my time between Indy and D.C. working on the Hill to end the war and that I was very glad to meet him. I told him that I couldn't understand it either, really, and was arrested in protest to the first Supplemental that passed the House in March, the one with the time-lines that the Senate removed in favor of non-binding suggestions to George Bush that he consider ending his occupation of Iraq. The bill he promptly vetoed, which I celebrated because it meant Congress would have another shot at passing an effective bill, one that might fulfill the wishes of the People and their mandate for peace after the November elections. The kid didn't quite grasp that I took that action in Congress myself. "They did? People did that?" "I did, with a friend of mine," I clarified. "We got arrested for speaking up while Congress was voting." He blinked. "There are a lot of people on Capitol Hill everyday working to end the war, going to hearings and meetings with staff and with legislators everyday, sometimes catching them in the hallways or even on the sidewalk on their way to a vote in the Capitol. Sometimes getting arrested when we protest," I said, briefly explaining the Lee Amendment, HR 508 and HR 1234. He listened intently and made notes of the legislation. I smiled, wishing I had picked out more books for him to ring up slowly. "You can help, you know," I said, and his eyes widened in an ambiguous manner that I can't quite attribute to either interest or wariness. "Call Congress," I continued. "Look up those bills and then call your Representative and Senators. Tell them what you want them to do in Congress." He handed me the receipt for my newest distraction/inspiration project and the next customer stepped up to him. As I walked away I said, "Call Congress, Shawn, tell your friends to call. Don't forget they work for you, Shawn. Don't let them forget it either."
He waved and said in a bold voice, "I'll call. Thanks, Lori."
He repeated my name and I knew he really would think about that encounter. It will be hard for him to "hit the snooze" on that one. He seemed sincere.
A small action, yes. Behavior that is nothing out of the ordinary among the community of activists with which I have been working. Yet, it was a significant encounter for me because it happened, not in D.C. where local people know a little about the issues, like all people tend to know a little about the issues in their own backyard. I am encouraged because it happened in my backyard. I share it with you now, on a day that the peace movement is reacting to the passage of legislation and dealing with new direction and loss, to tell you that I learned two things; that the Grassroots are growing, blessedly growing, and that if we have to do it one at a time, I, for one, am willing.
And now the promised poem.
by Lori Perdue
We gotta each one teach one
Get out the word
We gotta save one brave one
This Occupation is absurd
The People are paying the price
In blood and in treasure
It doesn’t matter to Bush, Cheney and Rice
They won’t consider peaceful measures
So we gotta each one teach one
Give the People the power to stand up
We gotta save one brave one
This war is using them up
Tour after tour they keep sending them back
Now they’re deploying the National Guard to pick up the slack
The war machine is chewing them up and spitting them out
And I keep expecting the People to stomp and shout
But I wind up questioning "Where is the heart in the Heartland?"
And "Why won’t the good people of America take a stand?"
Our troops and so many Iraqis are dying; blood for oil spilled onto the sand
While Mid-westerners offer up their children, wait for the phone to ring and wring their hands
We gotta each one teach one
The People have the power to make this stop
We gotta save one brave one
Staying the course is not reason enough for killing in Iraq
This is a war for oil my people, although they spin it when they can
Iraq did not have WMD and they didn’t attack our land
This is a war of choice my friends, a mission of retribution, man against man
And unless you speak up, speak out, the blood is on your hands.
To save one
In the afternoon, Desiree, Kit, Celeste and I dressed up in pink slip Bush outfits and pink parasols and strolled around Georgetown attracting smiles, laughter and peace signs everywhere we went. Liz took pictures of us with men, kids, and women of all ages who were interested and amused by our outfits. We got a lot of positive response and look forward to doing it again soon, this time with flyers to hand out to people who are interested in getting active!
Our next mission was to meet Nick, a man who had been walking for 5 days from Virginia to DC in protest of the war. We walked the last mile or so with him, until the end of his march at the White House. I was really inspired by his commitment, especially seeming him limp along with horrible blisters on his feet. He acted genuinely thankful that the 10 or so of us from CODEPINK, The World Can't Wait and a few other groups were there to support him, but I was disappointed that there weren't more people and that there was no media. After this guy had made the commitment of 5 straight days of walking, the least we could have done was to have some media coverage! Next time we will have to try to work more closely with the other activist organizations to plan events better.
I also came up with an idea that I'd like to try to organize while I'm in DC. I really want to get more young people active in the anti-war cause. We need the creativity of young people to attract the attention of the media, other activists and our legislators. So, I was thinking of organizing a chalking in front of the White House or somewhere else with high visibility and inviting young people to draw and write their feelings about the war. So, if anyone is reading this post and has some good ideas about how to get in touch with young people or has any suggestions about this action. Please please please let me know!!
It is now 2 am, and while I could probably babble on for the rest of the night, I think its time for bed. Until next time!!!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
This weekend, my first working with CODEPINK, Ann, Liz and Desiree picked me up at a friend's house in the DC area and whisked me off to NY to protest Cheney at West Point. He was giving a commencement speech to many of the future soldiers in this horrendous War on Iraq. We were not allowed within the gates of West Point, but we did march outside the gates, along with at least a hundred others. I was impressed by the turn out, but Annie, an amazing CodePinker from upstate New York, said that the turnout last year had been even bigger!
I was amazed at the devotion of all of the protesters. They marched in the heat, proudly walking past the few angry counter-protestors that were standing next to the sidewalks yelling at us. Coming from Maine, a protest of this size was pretty exciting. At home, I've only been involved in small, calm protests and vigils where almost no one shouts out against us, and certainly no one plans a protest against our protest!!!
We then drove down to NYC to help out with Operation First Casualty, which is a form of street theater put on by Iraq Veterans Against the War. The veterans, along with some pre-selected civilians, simulate life in an occupied city to give Americans a taste of what soldiers and Iraqi civilians experience every day. Our job was to hand out fliers and explain to people on the streets the meaning of this powerful action.
Quite a few people seemed interested, a few told me they were moved, but many were indifferent. I was frustrated by their apathy, but had to remind myself that even if the action inspired just a few people, those few more people could make a real difference in the campaign to stop the war.
At one point, a man walked up to our group and introduced himself as an Arab who had been dragged from his home and brought to a prison shortly after 9/11. He told of how he was denied the knowledge of where he was or how much time had passed and his discription of the way he was treated gave me chills. He was afraid for us to record any of what he said, so I wont add any details, but I was absolutely shocked. That a man could be taken from his home and tortured in a prison in the United States was such a wake up call for me. I knew that Bush had vetoed legislation to ban torture, but to hear a personal account of torture in a prison in the US?!! Could there be a better reason for impeachment?
We spent the rest of the weekend dressed in pink, holding Arrest Bush signs, singing anti-war songs into a megaphone, driving down the streets of NYC shouting "impeach Bush" out the windows... (I must admit that lovely Desiree did most of that) My first weekend as an intern for CODEPINK was the craziest, most fun and most productive weekend I've had in a LONG time! I can already feel how much I have to learn from the passionate, eloquent and strong women of CODEPINK. I can't wait to see what they have in store for me tomorrow!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Tuesday afternoon we started out at a Homeland Security Hearing chaired by Mr. Thompson, discussing preparedness for the rapidly-approaching 2007 Hurricane Season. Questions asked included "Is FEMA adequately coordinating with others to prepare?" Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. This hearing was on May 15th. Lots of statements were made using familiar catch-phrases like "looking outside the box" and "cutting red tape." We decided to move on.
Next was a hearing chaired by Senator Leahy who echoed what I had said earlier that morning at the National Press Club (see earlier Blog re Gonzales at the National Press Club). To wit, Gonzales has acted inappropriately and used the Justice Department dishonorably. That was satisfying.
The next hearing was the Committee on Veteran Affairs. The phrase that stuck with me there was "No amount of money is ever enough."
Wednesday morning Desiree and I started out lobbying in the basement of the Hart Senate Office Building. We were dressed in our pinks, shirts, buttons, tiaras, scarves, with pink tape all over us with the numbers of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians who had died since the start of the occupation. We were there to intercept Senators as they went to board the Congressional trolley taking them to Congress to vote on the Reid-Feingold Amendment to the Supplemental. In between Senators, we worked the crowd.
When we first arrived, I tried out my new "friendly" skills with the Capitol Police that were stationed down there. One of the surprises I had on coming to DC and working with Codepink was the complex relationship between these opposing parties. I expected the natural tension and antagonism between the police and the activists to be fixed and firm. I had seen videos of other actions and some arrests. I was expecting to be intimidated and to give them the cold shoulder in return. Instead, almost all Codepink activists try to be friendly and engage the officers of the Capitol Police, recognizing that they are just doing their jobs. Many of them, in turn, respect what Codepink is doing, are equally friendly and often give them a bit of slack. So I approached the two policemen stationed in the basement and extending my hand, introduced myself. "And your name is?" I asked. Frank and Brian introduced themselves.
In the rotunda area of the basement of the Hart Building there is a beautiful full-size replica of the statue on top of Congress. This is the Statue of Freedom, and is referred to as an allegorical female figure. To quote from information about the statue: it "is a classical female figure of Freedom wearing flowing draperies. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword;" Note her aggressive nature! "her left holds a laurel wreath of victory" And here we are still looking for that victory! "and the shield of the United States with thirteen stripes. Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans." We all know how well-treated the Native Americans were by early colonists. "A brooch inscribed "U.S." secures her fringed robes. The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds." I went off to explore this statue.
Soon, Capitol Hill Police Officer Frank called me over. I went, thinking to continue the friendly thing. He chatted me up a bit, asked me where I was from, did I get paid to do this, and similar intrusive kinds of things and then told me to stand on the opposite side of the rotunda away from the statue. Feeling annoyed, I left and conferred with Desiree. Desiree is an 'old hat' at this stuff. When I told her Frank said we had to move, she replied, "He didn't tell me that."
So I sauntered over to the designated "lobbying" space that Frank had sent me to, alone. I soon opened up the pages of the Washington Post from that morning that I had brought with me. The front page headline read: Faces of the Fallen. Beneath this were a full newspaper page of 1"x 1" photographs of American soldiers killed in Iraq. When opened, the next two pages were filled as well. I decided to use this as a visual to help get my message across.
Not only Senators use this basement space, but those touring through Capitol Hill start their tours in this rotunda. Group after group came walking into this space led by one or another of the Congressional Aides depending upon what state the tour groups came from. Needless to say, I had a captive audience.
I eased myself over toward the Statue of Freedom and eventually stood in front and a bit to the side of it and read my paper. As groups came in and individuals noticed the headline, I looked them in the eye and opened the paper to the two-page spread. It was very effective.
Soon old-friend Frank was standing in front of me. "Don't you think it's disrespectful of you to stand by the statue like this while people are trying to take a picture of it? They don't want a picture of you!" I replied that I didn't feel that I was being disrespectful at all, no one had asked me to move. If they had, I would happily have done so. "How do you know they aren't taking pictures of me?" I asked him. "Why would they want to take a picture of you?" he responded.
Now I started getting upset. "Move away from here," he said. "No, why should I?" I replied. "I have just as much right to be here as anyone else. I'm a citizen of this country. I came here all the way from New Hampshire. I can stand where I want!" Frank said something about not getting so upset and I said that he should stop trying to intimidate me. He denied trying to intimidate me and asked me not to cry. I asked him "Why, did my crying bother him?" "Yes," he said, "it did." Well then he should be nicer to me, I said. He reiterated that I had better move if people wanted to take a picture of the statue and walked back to his post.
Over the next two hours, countless numbers of people passed through that hall and many asked if they could take my picture. Each and every time I first shouted out "Frank, Frank, over here!" and signaled to him to look and see the tourists taking my picture. It was extremely satisfying. After the fifth or sixth time, Frank called back "Okay, okay, you win!"
A lot of children came through. Many were very interested in what I was doing and the photographs of the fallen soldiers. Occasionally their accompanying adults were not so happy.
They tried to imply that what I was doing was somehow shameful. I reminded them that this was what democracy was all about. A civics lesson was had by all.
One group of multi-ethnic people were dressed in such a way that I knew they were from other countries, so I asked them where they were from. Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc. the group called out. They asked me what the pictures were of and I told them. I also told them I was so sorry about what my government was doing in the world to them, their people and their respective countries. Several of them were almost in tears as well.
On occasion, someone would respond hostilely to my action. One man said that we had to stay in Iraq until we won! I asked him if he could tell me what winning would look like? What did that mean to him? He couldn't.
After a couple of hours, it was clear that the Reid-Feingold Amendment was going to go down. We took our disappointed selves to the cafeteria to regroup and plan our afternoon action. Fully fueled by the food and each other, we spent the afternoon visiting the offices of Democratic Senators who had voted against the Amendment earlier that morning. We split into groups to reach as many of them as we could manage. When available, we talked with staffers about why they chose to vote that way. We offered them our perspective on the need to end the war and bring the troops home now. As long as this war is waging, Codepink will be waging peace on the Hill.
Friday, May 25, 2007
While on the corner of New Jersey and Constitution, Liz encountered an Iraqi family visiting D.C. from Michigan who later explained to Tina that the father, a physician, had treated Jessica Lynch in Iraq. We took pictures, we commisserated over the Iraq debacle and shared some of their personal tradgedies and tears. Liz invited the oldest daughter, who is studying law, invited her to come visit CodePink house and to participate in our trainings and actions over the summer. She exchanged info and expressed great interest in becoming a Codepink intern and thanked us for our constant presence on the Hill.While David Barrows, "El Diablo Bush" waved at passersby, Des sang "He'll Bomb the Whole World". Tourists from around the world would laughingly stop to pose and take pictures with Bush the Devil. Ann Wright had joined the group by now after her meeting with Antonia Juhasz and helped by talking to tourists, police, military and congresspeople that walked by. All the while, Jim Goodnow would drive the Veterans for Peace bus slowly blocking the intersection so people could read the "OUT OF IRAQ" message on the side and rear of the bus. By late afternoon, the House went to vote on the Iraq spending bill. Around this time several of our congressional supporters walked briskly to and from the Capitol: Barbara Lee (CA) gave us a thumbs up, Hilda Solis (CA) nodded her head in approval, Raul Grijalva, (AZ) who looked exhausted and wiped out, thanked Liz for being there and Dennis Kucinich (OH) also thanked us. Simultaneously, several of us had disturbing interactions with Trent Franks (AZ), Norm Coleman (WI), Jeff Flake (AZ) and others. Franks walked right by Rebecca Bahr, Marine mom, making demeaning comments in reference to her and Osama Bin Laden. Liz responded with "Osama who??? Osama bin-forgotten?? Why haven't we found Osama???"After Gael, who has a "stay-away" from the Hill advised us of the results of the vote, we all dejectedly dragged ourselves home to a house full of visitors where Lori Perdue had Chinese food waiting for us. Des, determined to see who voted how, turned on CSPAN and discovered that the Senate was preparing to vote also, that same nite. At this point, around 8pm, Ann Wright says to a group of us, "Who wants to go back to the Hill to the Senate side tunnels?" Celeste replied that it would be demoralizing to stay home when we could at least witness this historical event. We would feel more empowered by being present and speaking our mind. So around 8pm off we dashed to the tunnels between the Senate buildings and the Capitol to head off the Senators on their way to vote. This was our last ditch effort at influencing the outcome. Des practically ran from Hart to the Russell tunnel where she rushed straight into Patty Murray (ME) who we had just heard on CSPAN speak from the gallery floor recommending a vote to "support" the troops by voting yes on the Supplemental. Disgusted and disappointed by this statement, Des told her as much, eye-to-eye, one-on-one with the Senator famously known as the "Sneaker mom". Ms. Murray sped by her averting her gaze.All alone in this rotunda-like room except for a friendly Capitol Police officer and the huge plaster model of the statue atop the Capitol Building, Des rushed after Senator John McCain as he exited the elevator, stuck out her hand which he shook, "Senator McCain!! She greeted. Can we count on you to vote to no on this supplemental??" He looked startled and turned to the Capitol Police officer and said, "Take care of this woman, would you?"At this point, Des was joined by Celeste, Ann and Joan. Des accosted the senators asking, "Senator, will you support the troops by voting no on the supplemental?" Celeste and Ann would race up alongside them to say " Please vote no on the war funding bill." We spoke to every senator that sped by us to board the train to the Capitol. Many who entered this way did not return through the tunnel.The last Senator to come by us after the vote, Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, initially walked past us and then did an about-face returning to explain his position of "supporting the troops" and stemming the tide of civil war. Ann asked specifics of the oil law and Des asked, "How many scandals will it take for Republicans to reject this Administration?" The Senator, very polished yet personable appeared to show genuine interest in our concerns yet could not answer our questions to our satisfaction.As the senators had all trickled out by around 9pm, we found out to our dismay, the democrats had turned their backs on the American people by moving further away from stopping this war. Returning home feeling dejected, yet somewhat empowered by our one-on-one encounters, we CODEPINK: women for peace knew we had given our all.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Posted by Lydia Vickers on May 24th, 2007
Getting that important 1-on-1 with your representative is one of the most satisfying parts of protesting and lobbying, if you ask me. I like to look at it as "dating" congress. Afterall, when you want to spend time with someone who is very busy, someone who is caught in the rush of politics on the Hill, someone who might have forgotten the rest of the world around them - when you want to spend time with that person you must do all sorts of creative things to get their attention.
Hanging around with the awesome women (and some men) who are the CODEPINK family has given me creativity and knowledge combined with passion and politics and topped with a kind of grace and power that is hard to explain. What I mean is that I feel graceful and powerful in front of the most powerful men and women in America.
I started my most recent relationship with my congressman by writing letters. Nice letters explaining how much money our state was losing because of the war and that I appreciated things he's done. When he voted against war money I sent flowers from CODEPINK Tallahassee. After my first meeting with an aide in D.C. I left a framed copy of CODEPINK's hand-stich of the Capitol. When I saw him in the hallways of Congress I made a point to thank him for what he does for Florida. Still no date.
Then the tides turned. He started to vote for war money. "Gotta help the troops" and so on. I changed tactics and stepped it up a bit. Armed with awesome pink women I went straight to his office after the McGovern vote, his vote was "nay". A true opportunity to really stand up against the war and he didn't. It was all I could do to control myself. The pink women with me probably didn't think I was controlling myself, but I promise, I was.
By this time I knew his aide's names in both the D.C. and my local offices and a lot more about my congressman's voting record (thanks to Arizona Liz encouraging getting voting information alllllll of the time). I didn't hesitate to throw names around like we were the best of pals. I ended with Lori's famous "go out on a limb for us, and the grass roots with grow under you to support you". I love that one.
How is this related to dating? Well, for me I spent the first part of my efforts being nice and looking for common ground. This second step is "I don't know if I really like you so much and maybe I'll just go talk to/date the people who vote for you". I really want this meeting so I'm okay with changing tactics to get his attention.
On Thursday a yes vote to fund the war took me over the edge. Time to pull out the stops. I called and e-mailed both offices to find out when was the earliest I could get a meeting. "I represent lots of Floridians who are terribly unhappy with these votes. Americans want our troops out of Iraq. Iraqis want us out of Iraq....." and so on. I really didn't give them time to put me off. I reminded both offices and anyone who would listen that "Americans are angry and Americans are organizing."
I told both offices that I would not only arrive in the D.C. offices with CODEPINK women but that we were organizing CODEPINK Florida and would be glad to come to them in Florida. Let me mention here the power of being allied with CodePINK and, more important, having CodePINK as an ally. CNN called us a "powerful anti-war group" on the afternoon news yesterday. There is nothing like saying "you better stop it or I'm gonna get my sister!"
To my delight my congressman called me, at my house, Friday morning. His scheduler, Jerry, is arranging our meeting in Tallahassee. He spoke to me about his service in Viet Nam and his concern for the troops. I just listened and look forward to explaining exactly what is happening to the troops (because I now know lots of their moms) and how important it is to get them out of there. I will take 4 other reps from peace groups in the area. So now, lots to plan, what to wear (must call Janine in Marin :-D) and so on. I'm back to being nice and getting the conversation started. I hope we have a long and productive relationship. There will be lots to do when we end this war. And, I hope he doesn't mind if I cheat a little. I think it's time to "date" my Senators also.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Arlington National Cemetery is a somber and quiet place.
In all of my recent time in D.C., I had not yet taken the trip across town to visit the landmark final resting-place of so many Americans. Until today, I had not visited Arlington since childhood. Col. Ann Wright asked yesterday if anyone would be interested in taking the drive over today (due to a light legislative schedule) suggesting we see the Women In Military Service for America Memorial and Museum. I immediately agreed to accompany her. A Veteran myself, I couldn’t decline the invitation, and I felt the time was right to refresh my memory of the grounds and explore the thoughts and feelings that visiting might stir in me.
A couple of other residents of the CP House here in D.C. were interested in going on the ‘field trip’. Lydia had a dual purpose in going; her mother is buried there, and she had crafted a banner honoring the women who have lost their lives in this war. She brought along the banner, which features the faces of the fallen female soldiers in Iraq to show to the curator of the museum. Lydia packed the banner with her from Florida for use in our Mothers’ Day action. Seeing it for the first time, I was unprepared for my own reaction. It touched me deeply, reminding me that my feelings about the military casualties are a very emotional trigger and heavy motivation for my activism. I have encountered “Faces of the Fallen” displays many times at actions and Marches but I was unaware that I would feel so much more strongly for the female casualties. I was immediately reduced to tears the first time I saw Lydia’s banner days before Mothers’ Day and was strangely drawn to the faces on it throughout its’ display at the event, stopping each time I passed it to peer at my lost sisters.
Desiree (House Mom) from Texas also came along. As one of the first to join Cindy Sheehan in the ditch in Crawford, Texas this teacher/librarian is dedicated to the anti-war cause beyond question. Col. Ann told us a little about the Museum and Memorial and we were prepared for a solemn afternoon, however; we were not aware that in the Museum section was a memorial artistic display of the “Faces of the Fallen” from 2003 to 2006.
Various artists’ renderings of our honored fallen are displayed in many different media. There are carvings and sculpture and paintings or drawings of many types- pencil, oil, watercolor, etc. The pictures and paintings were touching by themselves, leaving me with an aching lump in my throat. To compound the emotionality of the display there are messages left behind by loved ones and family members attached to nearly every single casualty’s portrait.
Some of the messages created a physical ache in my heart, and some refuse to leave my mind. Especially touching was the little girl’s shaky cursive writing describing how much her mom misses her fallen father and her assurance that she is being very good, and the mother whose note tells of how she thinks of her lost son every time the phone rings. I was puzzled by the dignified act of a father that could leave nothing but his business card with “Love, Dad” inscribed below his engraved name. I smiled despite the tears falling down my face at the widowed young wife that has left a series of conversational notes under her husband’s portrait laid out neatly to be read, the final one mentioning his favorite baseball team playing well recently. I cannot describe the angst that bubbled up seeing pictures of babies growing up, left clipped to portraits of their parents, who will never witness those smiling, chubby-faced moments.
I also cannot explain the mixed emotions I feel about the “Dear Soldier” notes, obviously written as a school assignment and delivered during another ‘field trip’, by young children thanking dead Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines for their service. They were many, all on the same notepaper, all in the juvenile block printing recognized by Desiree as early elementary handwriting. Their messages were disconcerting to me. “I think it is so cool that you went to war,” wrote one student. “Thank you for helping people there and protecting us in our homes,” wrote another. A third wrote, “I’m sorry you had to die to keep us free.” There are dozens of such messages, the sentiments repeated as if formulated from suggestions on a blackboard.
I do not question the genuine feeling these students have for the deaths of these honorable men and women, but I wonder if they (and their teachers) understand the ideals that are being reinforced in their immature minds with such a project as part of their curriculum. I was troubled thinking about it and mentioned my discomfort to Desiree, a teacher that quit her job to help stop this war. She said, flatly, “I noticed them,” and asked if I had found Casey Sheehan’s picture. The memorial was arranged by date of death, and finding him was as simple as walking down the aisle until we reached 04/04/04. His is an oil painting on canvas, with a note from his Mom. “Casey Boy” she called him, “you’re still alive to me.” I stood there for long moments and surveyed the column of faces that perished before Cindy’s son, the faces of those who died before I found permission to speak out when Cindy sat down in that ditch with my friend Desiree beside her.
I turned away to leave Des with Casey’s memorial and a few steps down the chronological line I found another face I recognized and pictures that were familiar to me. Alex Arredondo’s image hangs on the bulletin board in the CODEPINK House with contact information for his fiercely dedicated and loving father, Carlos. Among the mementos left with Alex’s memorial is a bracelet that reads Support Our Troops Bring Them Home NOW. As of today, May 21st 2007, 3422 American Military Service personnel have lost their lives in Iraq.
Monday, May 21, 2007
by Medea Benjamin
Some people get up early to have a leisurely breakfast and read the newspaper before going off to work, while others fly out the door with their coffee cup in hand. Whatever your morning routine, let me suggest a 30-second addition that could help stop the war in Iraq: Call your two Senators and tell them to bring the troops home in 2007.
Earlier this year, I virtually moved from my home in San Francisco to Washington, DC to pressure Congress to end the war. I’ve learned a few things in these last few months:
· Both branches of Congress are conservative, but the Senate is downright Jurassic. While the House of Representatives is sprinkled with women and blacks and Latinos, the Senate is stocked with one dark grey suit after another. Rich white men still compose about 80 percent of the Senate, their average age is 62, and even those who call themselves Democrats often think and act like Republicans.
· Active constituents around the country tend to know their House rep, but have little contact with their Senators. House members are up for election every two years and feel obligated to mix with the masses from time to time (town hall meetings, community events). Senators are much more isolated and elitist.
· While neither branch of Congress has fulfilled the will of the American people to stop the war in Iraq, Senators have been the worst. In the House, there is the Out of Iraq Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, a plethora of bills to stop the war; in the Senate, it has fallen virtually to Russ Feingold to lead the charge to get out of Iraq.
· When House and Senate bills go to joint conference to hash out the final bills, the House bills get watered down by the more conservative Senate. With the first version of the 2007 Supplemental war spending bill, the House had a fixed timetable for withdrawal, the Senate only a “goal”, so the version sent to Bush dropped the fixed timetable. The same will be true of the second supplemental that will be presented to Bush: the Senate version will take out any remaining House restrictions and allow this war to drag on and on.
· The series of call-ins, sit-ins and other pressure campaigns aimed at Congressional reps have had an impact in the House: 171 Representatives (169 Democrats, 2 Republicans) voted for Congressman Jim McGovern’s bill for withdrawal to begin within 90 days of enactment and be completed in 180 days. It didn’t pass, but the vote represented a significant 72 percent of Democrats. By contrast, a similar bill introduced by Senator Feingold to bring the troops home by April 1, 2008 got only 29 votes in the Senate, representing merely 57 percent of Democrats and no Republicans.
· Several Republican Senators have expressed misgivings about the war and even protested the surge—Chuck Hagel, John Warner, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman—but they all voted for continued war. Twenty-one Republican Senators are up for re-election in 2008 and many of them, such as Gordon Smith from Oregon, Susan Collins from Maine and Wayne Allard from Colorado, are extremely vulnerable. The time is right to go after Republican Senators up for re-election.
While most of the Senate is deaf to the cries of the majority of Americans to bring our troops home quickly, some Senators are listening—those running for president. All the Democratic Senators running for president supported Feingold’s bill to bring the troops home by April 1, 2008: Christopher Dodd (a co-sponsor), Joe Biden, Barak Obama, and even previous war hawk Hillary Clinton. Their votes don’t represent their great anti-war convictions, but rather the tremendous pressure they are getting on the campaign trail.
In fact, whether in the Senate or not, all the Democratic presidential candidates are falling over themselves to be more anti-war than the next. John Edwards has apologized for his 2002 vote authorizing Bush to invade Iraq and has been taking out full-page ads in major newspapers saying “Support the Troops, End the War”. He supported the Feingold bill but said it should go further by beginning withdrawal immediately and having all troops out in a year. Bill Richardson calls for troops out in 2007. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the only one who doesn’t have to beef up his anti-war credentials, has now one-upped the others by adding the impeachment of Dick Cheney to his platform.
It’s obvious that these Democratic candidates, who are out among the public day after day, feel the pulse of the nation and are taking anti-war positions to win votes. Unfortunately, other Senators aren’t feeling that same kind of pressure.
If we want to end the war, this must change. Our Senators—especially the 71 who failed to support Feingold’s bill—need to hear from us on a regular basis. So why not add to your morning routine a call to your Senator with a simple reminder to bring our troops home in 2007? If enough of us make those calls, perhaps the Senators will actually wake up and smell the coffee.
Medea Benjamin (email@example.com) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org
You may have seen me the Tuesday night of May 15th on Chris Matthews' Hardball (Gonzales tries to put scandal behind him) or caught a bit of the story on-line from CNN.com's Political Ticker or Yahoo! News (Gonzales Heckled During Speech) or read about it in The Raw Story (Gonzales pins list of fired US Attorneys on outgoing deputy by Michael Rostin) or The Hill.com (Gonzales: Paul McNulty was major figure in firings by Mike Soraghan). There I was being rather purposefully escorted out of the National Press Club Ballroom as I continued my request: "Mr. Gonzales, please resign! You dishonored your country! You've destroyed the Constitution!" At least I said "please!" I wish I had said "I know you don't recall it, but you have dishonored your country, etc."
Sunday, May 20, 2007
this is the account i gave to a woman from the university of georgia who does research on women activists.
May 14th, 2007 there was a “Mother of a March” planned that took place in D.C., as well as sister marches in other cities, such as L.A. and New York. It was made up primarily of mothers and was held the day after Mother’s Day. Before the D.C. March began, there was a speaking event in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Among the speakers were: Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, Presidential candidate Mike Gravel, Col. Ann Wright, Cindy Sheehan and military moms, Sara Rich, Tina Richards, myself and many more.
We started the march in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Those of us who were military mom’s (Cindy Sheehan, Marte-last name deliberately omitted, Sara Rich, Tina Richards and myself…maybe one or two others that I don’t know) led about 300-400 people in the march with a banner that read, “NOT ONE MORE MOTHER’S CHILD”. Along with us was a flag, flying upside down, which is a Navy signal meaning, “we are in distress”. During the majority of the march, which ended at an intersection at Independence Ave. between the Cannon and Longworth Congressional Office buildings and the Capitol Building, we chanted, “no more funding, no more war, mothers say, not one more”. We circled the intersection and tied up traffic for about a half and hour. At that point, we were warned by the Capitol Police, once and then twice to leave if we did not want to be arrested.
I was not planning to be arrested, as I had to fly home the next morning, but at the time the warning seemed like a dare and I felt I would be abandoning my son, who is in the hellish hardship of a purposeless war in Fallujah, away from his wife and children. How could I walk away? It was a desperate plea to my congressman, Ray La Hood, who I have called, emailed and even had a face to face meeting with the day of the McGovern bill…and who still wasn’t going to vote for the troops to come home…still was going to give the President until September to let the troop surge work.
Thirty-three others felt the same way as I did and risked arrest to make a point to our government that we are desperately trying to get them to see how serious we are…and the sad state our country is in. The rest of America needs to wake up, because the next step may have to be a draft and your child may have to go to Iraq…then maybe it will be more understandable to you why we were so willing to be this drastic and go to jail for the sake of bringing our children home from Iraq.
The troop surge is using and abusing our soldiers who are exhausted and battle scared with PTSD and severe brain trauma. Sending them back for more…ruining them, their bodies and their minds and their families in a war for what? OIL? These same congressmen who continue this war…and this administration…are their children in this war that they think is so righteous? NO and they never will be.
How long will this administration continue to take lightly the sacrifice of our soldiers and their families? How long will our congress continue to not speak for the people and bring our troops home? How long will this President-Dictator, continue to stand in his pride and not admit this war was wrong or at least that he made a mistake?
We are not currently being ruled in a democratic fashion. When 70 percent of American is saying, bring the troops home and Congress isn’t doing it and our President is vetoing everything that is passed. All of this is why I have begun doing protest and become an activist.
Wake up America.
~ Cindy Kaylor
by Jim Preston
I've been going to more and more anti-war/anti-torture activities and congressional hearings here in DC over the last few years, and I have been constantly on the lookout for a group that was more interested in legitimate creative action than in endless meetings. I wanted to be sure that any group that I got involved in was solidly based in the principles of peace, honest dialog, and respect for human dignity. I have previously worked with a very small group of friends on some fairly edgy torture simulation/demonstrations that were helpful in providing imagery to go along with the news reports of other protests, but I wanted to work with a slightly larger group of creative people, so I always kept my eyes open to see if I could find them. I have also worked with some bloggers and with mainstream liberal groups, but I have found that some of these groups, although they would like to wear the mantle of the “intellectual leadership” of the progressive movement, usually only offer paper-thin analysis of most issues, and are somehow unwilling to really step out strongly in opposition to the wars. You can be pretty damn sure I won't be supporting any group or candidate that is willing to let the war drag on because it will weaken the Republican Party!!! (I wish it wasn't true, but there are people like that out there. I feel sorry for them.)
Friday, May 18, 2007
From the Pink House women to SLO CODEPINK: Thank You!!!
Here we are celebrating this very sweet and thoughtful gift:
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Today as I was walking to the metro with a guy who works at Walter Reed Hospital, he said, "We are not a nation at war; we are an army at war." It made me think about how in wars past we in the US have rationed, held scrap metal drives, women who were traditionally in the home took up jobs in factories, the feeling of war was everywhere. It is entirely possible to walk onto a college campus, through a downtown city, or down the halls of Congress, and be oblivious of the fact that our nation is in fact at war. Of course the local cost of war is immense--the human death toll, the financial cutbacks to social services, and many of us in the poorest communities, or those of us who have family in the military, feel the war immensely.
Today when I was at Congress for a meeting I stopped by the underground subway between the House buildings and the Capitol as many Congressmembers were walking through to vote on something. Though I didn't have a specific bill to ask them about, I did shake many of their hands, and to every one I asked the question, "Have you done something today to stop the war in Iraq?" "Help us bring our troops home!" Because it is possible to walk these halls of Congress and feel very distant from the mere idea of war, it felt very effective to be a constant voice about the conflict outside the passageway to the Capitol. Imagine if every time there was any vote in Congress, every member going from their office to the Capitol was confronted with the message that it is time to bring our troops home and get out of Iraq. Our Congresspeople are for the most part behind the times in terms of public opinion about the war. Not only do we have to "push" them to do the right thing, support key legislation, stop the war... we have to "pull" them, by leading them towards the right direction. I envision hundreds of people here on a daily basis helping to pull Congress away from the Bush Agenda and towards peace. To increase our numbers from a dozen to a hundred... we need YOU! Click on the links to the right to find out how to join us in DC! Or raise a ruckus at your Congressperson's nearest office!
Photos from actions in DC today, including CODEPINK at a rally with Kucinich and Clinton, in solidarity with a labor rally, and outside the White House on the bullhorn during a press conference with Bush and Blair. Photos taken by Liz Hourican:
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Click here to read the full story.
Inspired to join us here in DC? Fill out an online application and come to DC! We need you here with us to take action in Congress! Plus, this June and July we're holding week-long training sessions at the house. Click here to find out more about our Peace Surge activist trainings in DC.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
bus (20 minute drive) to the metro (20 minute subway ride) to Union
Station, walked to the Codepink house, arrived around 10:00 a.m.,
just had time to stow my stuff, change into pink and head off. Took
the bus to Lafayette Park, right in front of the White House where
the rally was to be held. Gradually activists arrived and the crowd
grew to about 200-300 people. The rally went on for about 1-1/2
hours. Many moving speakers and singers, including Lynn Woolsey,
co-sponsor of HR 508. Then we marched from the White House to
Congress. The march was great. Lots of chanting and singing led by
Reverend Yearwood. Lots of honking of horns in support from cars
going by. When we got to the Department of Justice, we all stopped.
Cindy Sheehan grabbed the megaphone and rallied us with a list of
offenses against Gonzoles. After each charge, we responded with
shouts of "Shame on you!" "Resign!" When we arrived on Capitol Hill,
we took over an intersection between the Hart Senate Building and the
Longworth Building on one side of Independence and the Capitol on the
other. Traffic was stopped in all directions. There were at least
50 Capitol Police. Many people chose to form a circle around the
flagpole lowered at half mast, that had been carted along with our
march, and stay until they were arrested. Thirty-three people were
arrested. It took a long time to get them rounded up. Many people
went limp when they were arrested to prolong the process. Shouts of
"We love you!" and "Thank you." went out to the resisters. After
everyone was gone, we regrouped on the lawn and processed the event.
Someone arrived with cases of bottled water which was much
appreciated since everyone had given their water up to the resisters
when the police started their arrests. We're back at the Codepink
House now. We have found out that the computers are down at the
police station, so people who were arrested and hopefully going to be
processed and released quickly will be there for a while.
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill paper, and the Washington Post have both
been here tonight interviewing people and finding out about the
Codepink House. We are having a meeting in the peace room discussing
strategy for actions the rest of the week. It is very exciting.
Lots of creativity--lots of events that need our attention. It's a
good thing that there are lots of us here this week.
Monday, May 14, 2007
"Mother of a March" Leads to Arrests as Mothers and Activists Block Independence Avenue at Capitol in DC
by Sara Rich
May 14, 2007
I left the CODEPINK house with my IMPEACH Bush and Cheney T-Shirt, my peace dog tags and a large strip of pink duct tape on my chest with the number 3,396 written in big black numbers on my chest.
I arrived at Lafayette Park with my friend Cindy K., who is also a military mom. We came little early to be there to meet people and get something to eat before the March, We talked about the possibility of using civil disobedience and what we wanted to convey in our message when we took the stage for the rally part of the event. Cindy's soldier is in Iraq right now and we have all been on edge waiting to hear news of him. It was her first Mother's Day without a call from her son. It added a somber note to our day.
We talked about what kind of group we can start as military mothers to support and advocate for our children in service and how we can take action on their behalf. We started coming up with terms to explain what we go through as military moms. The one we decided on was "deployment depression." How it feels to be a mom knowing your child is far away in a combat zone and not knowing when or even if you will ever hear from them again. It is a miserable existence and we do our best to put on a good face, but inside I remember feeling dark and always in crisis mode.
We joined three more military moms that day. Marty, whose child is also deployed to Iraq, Tina, whose son is now a veteran with severe post traumatic stress disorder and Cindy S., who's living our worst nightmare, her child was killed in Iraq. The sense of energy and support we generate with are hearts open and our ”mother bear” instincts on red alert was extremely energizing and increased my resolve to be fully present for the actions planned for the day. As we listened to people talking and repeating the message of how the United States issues are not just the war, but the torture, the abuse of veterans, the oppression of the poor, the lack of healthcare, the shameful and detrimental foreign policies that this administration has shoved down the throat of the world…only one solution came to light for me: IMPEACHMENT. Impeachment of all of the criminals in the White House and their accomplices in the House of Representatives and Senate. This administration and their minions are responsible for millions of deaths worldwide and the extermination and genocide just continues.
With this is mind, I took the stage. The image of my hands drenched in blood leaving handprints on every Congressional Representative and Senator’s door that voted for this illegal and immoral war flashed through my mind. The White House no longer white but covered in the bright red and dark and crusted black red of new and old blood. When is it going to be enough for the American people? I talked about our troops and how we love them and just want them to come home safe and sound. We want them to be a part of the solution at home by helping rebuild New Orleans and healing our Nation as part of positive social programs. The rate of PTSD would go down if they were doing their real job to protect and serve, not being forced to participate as innocent civilians and children are killed needlessly.
Then I also talked about our own mental health and the state of our own hearts, realizing that it is crucial that we keep our hearts open to the good and the love that we know we all generate in this movement. If you find yourself jaded or full of hatred, take a step back, take a breath and come back when you feel better. We have to stay strong, healthy and remember to take a breath. As I spoke I gazed at the crowd and saw my daughter there watching me. Our mutual admiration took my attention for a moment. How far we have come in such a short time. Here I was speaking with powerful peace activists in front of the "White"
House and she was standing there with her IVAW friends looking clear and strong in the moment. How blessed we are to be traveling this life together.
As we prepare for the "Mother of a March" we are asked that military mom's lead the way holding the banner that says, " Not one more mother's child" and we chanted as we departed, "Stop the funding, stop the war! Mother's say, NOT ONE MORE!" We chanted this as we marched our way through the streets of Washington DC finally ending up walking up Pennsylvania Avenue right past the tourists with cameras, students with wide eyes and cautious security guards wondering what these radical peaceful activists will do to them. We took a brief stop in front of the Justice department where we chanted, "Shame-Shame-Shame" and Cindy S. took up the bullhorn and talked about the severe and deadly injustices that this US "Justice" Department has been complicit in.
We continued up the Avenue and wound our way through the Capitol of our Nation. At the point where we were almost to the Capitol, a former officer in the military who was leading us in prayer and chanting made an announcement saying that from the time we left Lafayette Park to then, our number of dead military in Iraq increased by two more of our brave children in the military. Tears began to flow and our grief was
overwhelming. We held each other with tears and our chanting volume and intensity increased dramatically as we marched on.
We had no permit for this so we were stopping traffic and a few police cars actually charged us at times. Guess they did not get the memo that we were coming to town(haha) We reached the intersection where the members of Congress cross the street from their offices to the Capitol. My voice was hoarse from chanting, Dede had put a little microphone with my own speaker around my neck, but my voice was still raw. The energy was increasing and I was totally caught up with my sisters in the call for congress to impeach and arrest the war criminals. I noticed that the police officers were gathering forces as the vans, bicycles, black suburbans and uniformed officers filed out of the buildings around us. My heartbeat increased again. Cameras were everywhere and we were oblivious to them knowing that we were reaching our destination and our decision was almost upon us.
As we reached the intersection, our fearless organizer was checking in with us, asking if we were going to go through and be arrested. I was so furiously and emotionally charged I started to look for my daughter to hand her my stuff as the mothers with the banner walked in a circle inside a circle of people making the choice to be arrested. In the middle of it all was the American flag, flying high and proud. I was marching and feeling the thrill of breaking the law. All I wanted to do was stay with my sisters, the other military moms. My friend Tina screamed, " We have to show them we are serious!!!!" I found my daughters eyes and motioned her to come get my stuff. She shook her head and she and our dear friend Geoff both screamed at me to get out of there fast. I shook my head no, I can't leave my sisters, they persisted and I saw the urgency in my daughters eyes, her own traumatic arrest still fresh in our hearts, and I wrenched myself away from the circle and ran to my daughter with a sob. As I was heading out, a man asked me to take his video camera as he was going to be arrested and I agreed. I ran to my daughter and hung my head in shame and grief, my emotions overwhelming me. Once I got myself under control I stood witness as my friends and sisters stood their ground in the middle and were one by one arrested. We continued to chant and remind the police officers to be gentle. For the most part I saw them trying to be careful after they were reminded that these women are mothers and grandmothers. I turned my microphone back on and yelled at them how brave they are and thanking them for standing up. We told the police that they should be arresting the real criminals. Bush and his Administration. I was still shaking with emotion as they led people to the vans and drove them away. I am so blessed that Suzanne and Geoff were there with me explaining what was going on and helping me calm down. The last van pulled away and we waved and told them we loved them.
Even though, rationally, know I did the right thing for my family, I, myself longed to be with them in the vans.
Later that evening as Suzanne and I made our way back to the CODEPINK house I talked about my sense of guilt and shame for having not followed through with the civil disobedience fire that was so consuming. She told me that being arrested was not glamorous and does not make me more patriotic. She reminded me that I have been working against this war and for peace consistently for years and even sent my beloved child to war.
She looked at me and smiled. At that moment, everything was all right.
3,398. We will continue. We will not be silent.
Sara, proud mom of Suzanne