But Samantha Miller, a 22-year-old
"If I saw you in passing, I wouldn't think a thing about it," Deb Marshall, a retired house painter from Deer Isle, Maine, says reassuringly.
The two women are preparing for another day of protesting on Capitol Hill, this time to disrupt a public hearing in which Gen. David Petraeus is to provide a status report on
Code Pink's townhouse in
Aside from the newspaper clippings and anti-Bush posters on the wall, the place looks like a Barbie Dream House, covered in pink, from the plastic cups in the kitchen to the quilts on the beds.
Here, activists from across the country stay for free and protest the war; many will take part in a march Saturday. Some, such as the 68-year-old
The women who come here sleep in bunk beds, divide house chores and share the bathroom.
Blending activism with joy
In the basement -- nicknamed the Peace Room -- the group stores its props and costumes, ready to be worn at the next protest. It's a collection of pink boas, pink police outfits, pink congressional suits, even giant papier-mache bobbleheads that poke fun at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"We try to bring a lot of joy to our activism," said Miller, one of five paid Code Pink employees in
Code Pink's tactics are anything but subtle. Members drop pink banners from buildings, make up songs and look for any spare moment to exhort a passing politician.
The anti-war coalition is increasingly a diverse one, and Code Pink members readily admit they are not popular with their comrades-in-arms.
"In a nutshell, they tolerate us," said Desiree Fairooz, a
To the war's supporters, they're more than annoying.
"People like Code Pink have absolutely no regard for the decorum of Congress," said Brad Blakeman, president and CEO of Freedom's Watch, a non-profit organization that supports President Bush's war strategy. "The costumes they wear at public hearings and the disruptions they make. ... It disrespects the message they're trying to deliver."
The Code Pink women have become a fixture of the
They appear on Capitol Hill "more days than not," said Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant at arms and a former Capitol Police chief. Though vocal, Code Pink members usually cooperate with police and know the rules, he said.
The group's loud, animated style of protesting is not new.
"In the labor movement, folks would sing songs as part of a camaraderie on the picket lines. In the civil rights movement, they'd sing religious hymns," said Gerard Huiskamp, a political science professor at
Yippies, for example, were widely known for using such tactics in the 1960s. And protesting saw a resurgence in the 1990s as anti-globalization groups and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals threw giant banners from buildings and had celebrities pose naked.
"Politics and speaking out about something serious doesn't have to be somber and dry," Huiskamp said.
That's the message Gael Murphy hopes her fellow Code Pink members absorb when they camp at the group's townhouse.
"They're moved by the experience. They feel an empowerment," said Murphy, who co-founded Code Pink in November 2002.
The group began as an anti-war vigil outside the White House and expanded. Last March, Code Pink -- its name plays off the color-coded terrorism alert with a feminine twist -- signed a year-long lease for the townhouse, using fundraisers and donations to pay the $2,200 monthly rent.
Woman's average stay: 1 week
This summer, about 150 women from across the country slept in the house, most staying about a week before returning home.
Upon arrival they're quickly given a briefing, a sort of Congress 101, Fairooz said.
She shows them where the different buildings on Capitol Hill are, instructs them on how to speak with their representatives and reminds them to keep $50 in a sock for bail. In the evenings, the women compare notes and talk about their day.
"You'd walk in, and somebody would have cooked some dinner," said Robin Schirmer, a coordinator from
Murphy added, "It's really hard to describe, but a lot of magic happens in this house."