Friday, May 25, 2007

CODEPINK never gives up on Supplemental Vote Day on the Hill

We started our day early on the Senate side at Leahy's Judiciary Full Committee hearing on the return of Habeas Corpus. Just before the hearing began, Desiree hopped up and presented the Report of the Citizen's Hearing of the U.S. Actions in Iraq to Texas Senator John Cornyn who was deep in conversation with two other Republican senators, Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham. Senator Cornyn flipped through the pages lackadaisically and upon the leaving the hearing left the document right there on the table. Because they postponed the hearing on Habeas Corpus due to a vote on the floor the committee recessed early.At this point, Liz and Des proceeded to visit their senators, Kyl and Cornyn respectively. Des dropped off the report Cornyn "forgot" to take with him and Liz spoke with George a staffer at Kyl's office about the fact that Kyl was extremely rude and distracting during the hearing by chatting with Cornyn during Leahy's opening statement.From the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Liz and Des proceeded to the House side where they ran into Tina Richards, Polly Miller and Hip Hop Caucus emcee and rapper dynamo Reverend Lennox Yearwood. Remembering that the "Swarm" action involved riding the Veterans For Peace bus from Union Station to the Justice Department, they hiked over to Union Station. Jim Goodnow picked up several other activists, Jim and Jerry led the bus on their bikes and Gael followed in her car. Around 30 folks rode participating in the ride and action outside the Justice Department for the lunch hour chanting and singing Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Heh-heh-heh, RESIGN!! After this expeditious action, we rushed up to the Cannon building terrace to catch the end of the press conference during which Dennis Kucinich and Antonia Juhasz spoke educating the public on the Iraqi Oil Law. Unfortunately we had missed Kucinich's speech due to traffic between the Justice Department and the Hill. Upon arrival, though, we surrounded Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus with our Don't Buy Bush's War banner, the U.S. Out of Iraq banner and Bring the Troops Home Now Code Pink banner. Rev. Yearwood gave an emotional speech as he pounded the podium with disgust about the needless loss of life in Iraq since the Democrats have taken office. His voice boomed and echoed between the walls of Cannon and Longworth buildings so much so that the construction workers and the Capitol Police in the adjacent street stopped what they were doing to listen. Shortly thereafter, a Capitol Police captain ordered us to leave or risk arrest because we did not have the permit to speak there, as Kucinich and Juhasz did.From here several in attendance walked to the Senate side to take our message there. Jim Goodnow attempted to drive the bus with Pat, a blind and wheelchair bound activist who never travels without his wooden peace sign, to the Hart building but the bus was detained by police before making it even to the Dirksen building. Jim was issued a traffic citation for some infraction we were not aware. We split up at this time, some to go inside Hart with Tina to lobby for peace. 76 year old Eve Tetaz who unbeknownst to the rest of us had a "stay-away" order from the Senate side was promptly arrested upon approaching the metal detector while others stayed outside holding the Don't Buy Bush's War banner. About 5 minutes later, Tina came back outside to inform us that Eve was just arrested. It took about 15 police officers to detain and zipcuff her. Shortly after the paddy wagon pulled up to the Hart bdg 3 more bike police patrol arrived to "assist" in the arrest of the former schoolteacher. As they brought Eve out of the building we shouted "Thank you Eve! We love you Eve!" Liz tried to hug her. Liz stayed bannering outside the Hart building while Tina called an impromptu meeting over lunch on lobbying for the afternoon. At this point, in attendance was Pete Perry, Tina Richards, Rebecca Bahr, Polly, and several others supporting Tina's Swarm action. The rest of the afternoon we bannered outside both Hart and Rayburn with our message using the megaphone. David Barrows, dressed as Bush the Devil hung out at the corner of New Jersey and Independence with us waiting for Congressfeebles as they went to lunch, came back from lunch, went to dinner, came back from dinner, etc. "Enjoy your dinner, Congressman!" Des shouted. "Enjoy it while our troops eat one MRE in 120 degree heat and wash it down with tainted water provided by Helliburton!" From around 2pm until after 9pm that night, CodePinkers and MFSO members spoke out to as many congresspeople and senators as they could reach about defunding this war and occupation.
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.

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