by Medea Benjamin
Saturday May 12, was open house day for the Embassies of the European Union in Washington DC. A group of women from CODEPINK decided to visit the Embassies as a way to get to know some of the diplomats.
Our first stop was the Danish Embassy, where we had a long chat with the Ambassador about the war in Iraq. He was quite proud that Denmark had 550 troops in Iraq and was “standing tall with America” and upholding democracy. We insisted that the majority of Americans, Danes and Iraqis want the “coalition forces” to leave Iraq, so if the Danish government truly wants to uphold democracy, it should pull its forces out ASAP. The discussion got quite heated, but always civil. He even posed for a photo with us. Upon leaving, we thanked him for his time and shook hands.
Then we went to the Italian Embassy. We were standing on line to be there when it opened at 12 noon, and ended up being number 18 on a long line of some 200 people (there were 20 of us in our group). At noon, they opened the gate and let in 18 people. When it came to our group, dressed mostly in bright pink, they stopped the line. Uh-oh, we thought, there¹s some trouble. Suddenly, one police car pulled up. Then another and another, until there were eight police cars!!! The trouble, it turns out, was us! The Italians, it seems, are afraid of women wearing pink and advocating peace.
A small group of CODEPINK women had been at the Embassy the previous week with a delegation from Italy that is trying to stop the building of a new US military base in their beautiful UNESCO-heritage town of Vicenza. While the Italian delegation met with the Embassy staff inside, about 7 CODEPINK women had remained outside banging pots and pans in solidarity.
The Embassy staff was worried that we were going to protest again‹while we were planning on simply talking to them. So instead of being diplomats, welcoming us in and talking to us, they locked us out, created a scene by having the police pull us out of the line and threaten to arrest us. So much for Italian diplomacy!
With a police escort, some of us went on to the French Embassy to give them our condolences about their last election (and to see if we could get in!). When we got to the embassy, they pulled us off the line. But instead of kicking us out, they did a security check and then ushered us inside, where we had champagne and enjoyed the embassy tour. Seems like the French could give the Italians a lesson in diplomacy!