Code Pink stood for Unity this afternoon. We witnessed the fusion of art and activism, politics and power, veterans and voters, women and warriors, all speaking out against the Iraq War. Nearly a dozen activist groups came together today in a coordinated effort to demonstrate a united front and express the outrage of the people in the Hart Senate Office Building as the Senate passed the Supplemental Funding compromise. 14 were arrested in the action, including Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Reverend Lennox Yearwood of Vets for Peace.
With our high visibility and reputation for consistent action on the Hill, CodePink took what appeared to be the point position on the action, but we mixed it up, to the surprise of the Capitol Police. We gathered together in the atrium of the building, a huge airy space that lends itself very well to our purposes. We rallied and split up into several teams, decked out in our flashiest pink regalia or in orange jumpsuits (some having just left a hearing on detainees). One CodePink group kicked off the entire action by dropping a small banner from the third floor while others of us proceeded through the open halls of the building singing. We distracted the Capitol Police, drawing attention away from other groups and leaving open the way for their voices to cry out against the continued funding of the War without intense scrutiny from the Police.
While the uniformed officers followed the women in pink, as is the custom now, our singing, banner-dropping contingent spread out on three sides of the upper levels around the atrium.
Marine Mom Tina Richards, local activist Pete Perry and other activists used the opportunity to read aloud letters from Gold Star and Military Families to the Democratic leadership of Congress with the full attention of tourists, students, staffers, supporting activists and the full coverage of the press in the lobby. CodePink then re-joined the other groups in the lobby, as planned, drawing with us the Police assigned to our groups to await the next phase of the carefully choreographed event. We wandered about on the ground floor, fully pink, some with pink tape marked with 3334 (today’s reported death toll of American service personnel) holding up copies of the Constitution, drawing more warnings from Police. Just then a group of women from New York City, Artists Against the War, unfurled two 700 square foot banners from balconies on opposite sides of the fifth floor. One of the black banners, lettered in white, said “Your Silence, Your Legacy”, the other was a direct quotation of the Articles of Impeachment from the Constitution. The crowd of more than a hundred in the lobby cheered as the banners were dropped, tied off and one of the two groups was arrested. The others led onlookers in a cry of “Impeach Now”.
“I have to go vote now, but I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you for what you are doing. We need these voices. Keep it up.” - Anonymous Senator attending action
We stood there in the lobby surrounded by supporters of peace, justice and impeachment as the voices of the people rose up in Congress. The cheers, chants and shouts did not stop when the Police cut away and confiscated the banners. They only faded as the solemn notes of Taps trumpeted through the building, echoing off the walls and unsettling hearts. Taps is the traditional tune of military mourning and the occasion was indeed mournful. The final phase of the action was beginning.
But, before the planned funeral for the next fallen soldier began I was approached by a Senator, who took me by the arm and said, “I have to go vote now, but I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you for what you are doing. We need these voices. Keep it up.” I was a bit stunned and surprised and it took me a moment to realize that he was a Legislator because he had removed his congressional lapel pin (going incognito to the protest, I suppose), but I recognized him from hearings and later looked him up in a facebook directory.
Taps continued as he left me, his staffer urging him toward the door to head to the Capitol for the vote.
Adam, a former Marine Sergeant and Iraq veteran who served during the invasion of Fallujah, marched across the atrium wearing his black IVAW shirt and Marine camo hat bearing a ceremoniously folded American flag. He halted in front of Reverend Yearwood, a former Air Force Chaplain and the President of the Hip-Hop Caucus, dropped to one knee, bowed his head and offered up the flag while the next soldier to die in this war was eulogized. Rev. Yearwood, in his black shirt and white collar also wore his Air Force camo hat bearing his bars of rank. The two were making it clear to the world that their actions were validated by their status as veterans. Rev. Yearwood’s words were filled with pain and his face a vision of determination as he explained that more would die every day while Congress continues to provide money to pay for the war. With or without a Veto from George, right now Congress is buying this war.
People and police were gathered around with press everywhere jockeying for shots of the two, who were somberly paying their respects to those who have fallen and will continue to fall in this unjust war. Just as the soldiers are the ones to bear the heavy costs of war Adam and the Rev were bearing the costs of this action.
The police approached, cutting through the crowd to warn them and notify them that they were about to be arrested for unlawful assembly and demonstration. They held their ground, following through with their mission to express the sadness of the entire movement at the loss of life in senseless, unwarranted aggression. In all, 14 arrests were made in association with the action.
Code Pink joined the coalition of groups which included Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, United for Peace and Justice, Artists against the War (We Will Not Be Silent), Voters for Peace, Democracy Rising, and Grass Roots America, among others.