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February Actions in DC-CODEPINK's Occupation Project

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I had another one of those “Meanwhile in Baghdad” moments when I turned on the TV today, my first day back home again in Indiana from the front lines of the political war in Washington. CSPAN is running video of hearings that are more than a month old while the Mainstream Media is running live coverage of a hearing about, you guessed it, Anna Nicole Smith. And I am baffled.


They are airing live, in real time, a hearing about what will happen with the remains of a person who is famous for being famous, sending out national news alerts that the Judge presiding over the hearing wept when he rendered his decision.


Here’s the baffling part. For a solid month, activists and Women For Peace have been in hearings in our nation’s capital. Standing up, quite literally, for our democracy, our rights as citizens and the human rights of others all over the world. True, we did not have a gallon jug of methadone in our refrigerator in the CODEPINK house on Capital Hill—organic cheese and leftover vegetarian soup are more our speed. But we, too, have wept in hearings, and we also created quite a ruckus on our last trip to a hotel.


That’s where the similarities begin and end, though. No one waited an inordinate amount of time to call 911 for us. We could see the secret service out on Connecticut Avenue counting up the six floors to pinpoint our location and put an end to our partying. Our idea of fun was to drop a forty-foot pink slip from the sixth floor of the 6-star Mayflower Hotel while George Bush was speaking in a ballroom downstairs. Pink-slipping George was one of many highlights in a month filled with actions and opportunities to work for Peace.


The past month of living and working in D.C. with CODEPINK has been an invaluable experience with many victories, both large and small. The women of CODEPINK have experienced both excitement and frustration at trying to move Congress to end this war in Iraq and prevent another in Iran. As a small town, mid-western woman with only a couple of years of activism under my belt, the leadership and mentoring provided by all in CODEPINK has been of incalculable worth. Seeing the determination on Medea Benjamin’s face each morning as we marched the eight blocks to the Capital through the snow and ice that nearly shut down the city soothed any doubts I may have had about our effectiveness.


When Senators and Representatives thanked us for our concern and for our participation in our democracy, all doubts about propriety were dispelled. When Senate and House staffers followed us to the cafeteria to thank us for speaking truth to power, all questions about our effectiveness were quelled. When we were met on the street and in restaurants and in hallways with smiles and “thumbs up” we were encouraged to continue. It has been an exercise in, to reclaim verbiage from the administration, “adapt to win”.


With the change over to Democratic Party Leadership in both the House and the Senate, each day on the Hill offered challenges with dealing with Legislators and finding the line with Capital Police. What was once arrestable is sometimes no longer even chided. What was once unwelcome opinion and treated as disrespectful behavior is now tolerated as part of the exercise of free speech. Do not think that things have changed so much that the path to peace will be a cake walk. It will not be. Congress will not step out onto any limb until they know that not only will their grassroots break their fall, but will grow to support the limb they have climbed out upon and prevent it from cracking under the weight of the issues.


Despite resistance from Dems and Republicans alike, women have been fighting valiantly in the war against the war, taking CODEPINK’s anti-war message from the curbside to Congress in a sustained non-violent movement that has been picking up momentum and making a distinct difference in our government’s handling of war issues. Our pink presence on the Hill has been a comfort to some, a thorn in the side to others and a spur to those hanging politically somewhere in between. There can be no doubt about our effectiveness, though. Whether we are attending hearings, speaking out and being removed from those hearings, being arrested in Congress or in Legislative offices, or executing actions that spark the imagination and awareness of the public, the women of CODEPINK are at the forefront of the peace movement. The momentum gained from the kick-off of the occupation project must be sustained. The ground we have gained in the halls of congress must be maintained. Fighting for it, standing up, is the only way peace and justice will be obtained.


I feel honored to have worked with so many who have given so much of themselves to the movement, and look forward to my return to D.C.


Lori Perdue 

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