It is both funny and disturbing to watch our members of Congress flee down hallways and sneak out of hearings through the back door in order to avoid CODEPINKers with questions. With great trepidation, they tighten the ranks of staffers and rush as quickly as possible away from accountability to the American people. Obviously, transparency in government is difficult to achieve when government systems are designed to keep the public at bay. When you do manage to have a close encounter with a member of Congress, you have about thirty seconds to make your point before they are either swept into an elevator, office, or stairway, or before they threaten to call the Capitol Police. Here are my top ten examples from the week thus far to illustrate this phenomena:
1. If you would like to meet with a Senator or Legislative Aid, you must fax in your request. If you don't have a fax, you can write a letter. How efficient is that?
2. When running into Presidential candidate Joe Biden in the hallway, Liz mentioned to the Senator that his plan to partition Iraq is not a solution. Joe Biden responded by saying "Go Home." Liz responded by saying "But Joe, I am home!"
3. When confronted by me and another CODEPINKer on an elevator, Senator John McCain, another Presidential candidate, refused to listen to our assertions that education should be funded before war. He told us to stop following him and threatened to summon the Capitol police.
4. Senator John Conyers, who is supposedly opposed to the war, continues to pink profile Codepinkers and has been very hard on the ladies. He even had CODEPINK removed from a committee hearing he chaired even before the meeting started.
5. When six women entered Senator Lieberman's office to ask the Senator why he continues his rhetoric about bombing Iran, Lieberman's staff called nine police officers in to monitor the situation.
6. When Carla, another CODEPINK newbie, and I walked into a Committee room, a staffer quickly accosted us and said in a rather rude manner "You do KNOW what the House rules are don't you? There are no demonstrations allowed." We were only there to listen and after all it was a public hearing.
7. In several instances this week, Leslie our resident who visted Iran and has been fasting for two weeks until Lieberman meets with her to discuss her Iran visit (he cancelled a previously scheduled meeting with her) has been trying to talk to him in the hallways. Several times he slipped out the back of hearing rooms, at other times he made cursory remarks to Leslie, but in general he continues to refuse to meet with her.
8. If you are one minute late to lunch at the Dirksen cafeteria, they won't let you in during staff serving time. We of course bum rushed the door and got to eat anyway. In our book, tradition and process does not trump hunger.
9. Note to those coming to D.C: Walk fast and wear tennis shoes. Congress members really won't stop to talk to CODEPINKers (just another example of pink profiling). If they see pink, they move fast.
10. In meeting John Warner, my very own Senator, Senator Warner did slow down to shake my hand and listen to my concern about funds from Virginia going to fund war instead of education, but beyond that I have not been able to schedule a meeting with his Legislative Aid this week.
PS-On a positive note, most members of the Capitol Police seem to love CODEPINK!!
Teacher from Richmond, VA