Saturday, September 22, 2007

Washington Capers

My name is Isabel. I have lived for three years in Panama. Originally I vigilled with Code Pink in the early days of 2003 before the Iraq War began. From my chilly stand long ago in front of the White House, I had a strong feeling this government was secretive, hostile, uncommunicative, and would rescind laws and even the Constitution in order to advance the neo-con agenda. Also I knew the upcoming pre-emptive war was for oil, never, never a government for the people, Iraqi or American. How right I was! Although the horror of the war far surpassed my expectations!As I walked through FDR's memorial, my thoughts were about how much of a humanitarian FDR was compared to the current government. And this makes me profoundly sad for my country and mostly for the American people. But I was glad I was making a stand for true democracy and freedom as FDR Jefferson and Lincoln had conceived many centuries ago!What an incredible week of activities with the indomitable group Code Pink -beginning with Happy Hour at the Justice Department to celebrate Gonzo's (Alberto Gonsalves, Attorney General) resignation - we sang, danced, and drank to Gonzo's departure dressed in our pink party clothes and top hats with going going Gonzo on top! We sang at the top of our voices about how Gonzo subverted the Constitution and civil law to allow torture, unbridled rescinding of human rights for those suspected of terrorism, expulsion of whistleblowers. For all of his lies to Congress and the American people activists are overjoyed he has taken his leave.Saturday morning about 10:30am, many assembled at Freedom Plaza, to get revved up for the ANSWER sponsored march against war - our wonderful songstress Betse led the spirited colorful crowd in songs of justice peace courage and strength - speakers spoke of the need to bring the troops home now! Other organizations involved were V-Day, Institute for Policy Studies, Coalition Against Sanctions and military Interventions in Iran Other women added their voices to this rally for freedom - then we formed a pink column before marching to join the ANSWER rally.The march was a resounding success for antiwar activists. Hundreds of thousands of people marched with one voice against the war - Code Pink was spectacular as usual, ladies and men dressed in varing shades of pink, singing and dancing, marching for peace. A great cheer rose as we approached the Capitol, where on top of the Impeachment bus (which was driven across the country from California) Medea, Gail and other Code Pinkers were waving to the masses that swarmed down Pennsylvania avenue. It was very exciting to see them there, witnessing for peace!Once at the Capitol, hundreds participated in a massive die-in - it was incredible to watch men and women join the veterans in this massive civil disobedience. The police decided there were too many people so arrest was off the plate until about 180 intrepid souls jumped off the wall into a crowd of hostile and often brutal policemen! These people were not only indicted, they were not given any food or water during their overnight stay in a barracks which had no beds.When releasedOn Sunday, we worked on visuals and banners for Monday's action, and had a great turnout of workers! Our planning meeting lasted for several hours as we carefully coordinated our efforts to get the message out to Congress - bring the troops home, end this lousy war, don't fund any war no more! People did research, coordinated media, planned activities for the day.On Monday, 160 people convened in Rayburn cafeteria, then we marched on Capitol Hill. In a guided tour of the Halls of Shame -Code Pink distributed certificates of shame to the Dirty Dozen, those Congressmen and women who had the worst pro-war voting records. We sang peace and justice songs in the atrium of Rayburn, the acoustics were wonderful. As we walked the halls of Congress, various constituents of the Congressperson we were visiting got to speak their piece.We were invited to meet with Ike Skelton's legislative aide, who is very pro-war - I believe the Aide was amazed at how knowledgeable our people were on issues. All in all a very good day in getting our collective word out and an impressive show on behalf of activism!On Tuesday, Code Pink targeted women legislators who continue to vote for war. Also there were various hearings going on that day - in particular one which dealt with wire-tapping. After Code Pinkers were detected by security - we decided to sport our signs reading "Don't tap my phone, the eye is watching you and others" and left the room chanting "defend the constitution".Recorded by C-Span. Several people were arrested at a rally labeled Families United, hosted by John Mc Cain, and other pro-war congressmen. Police were adamant counter demonstrators could not speak or in any way interfere with the permitted rally - the thought occurred to me - why were not the police as protective of the anti-war establishment at our permitted activities as they were of the pro-war groups! This constant hassling and belligerance was to become the norm during our activties throughout Washington. In successive days we visited various hearings and committee meetings - but the most interesting to me was the whistleblowers and Blackwater security issues - dealing in general with the largely unregulated activities o f private securing firms in Iraq. Blackwater alone has been paid over 4 billion dollars to provide security for dignitaries as well as other duties. When the news surfaced about Blackwater's being asked to leave Iraq, we immediately planned a demonstration in front of the military contractor involved. With the Pink Police sporting signs "pull the plug on Blackwater" Respect Iraq Sovereignty Blackwater out now" we were joined by other groups, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Grassroots America - we walked across city to the State Department, where we put on a rally. Our gal Liz was phenomenal as Condi - doing dances around Condi's offices - as we sang and chanted to "get Blackwater out of Iraq". Then a marathon march through downtown, asking the public to sign off on war.Some of us attended a pro-war on Iran hearing - also was a hearing on Veterans Benefits, we all agreed that their needs to be more done for injured and returning veterans. Mentioned were many instances of PTSD, one veteran we spoke with at the march was in a wheelchair, he was suing the Vets for incompetent care after the Vietnam war which rendered him paralyzed.Another committee was the Progressive Caucas, trying to get support for bills to end the war now. I had my foto taken with my all time favorite representative, Lynn Woolsey - who is unwavering in her support for Code Pink, among other groups. She is the co-sponsor of a comprehensive antiwar bill, which is having a rough time in Congress!On Thursday, all participated in a very moving ceremony in front of the Capitol. After approximately 35 veterans had been arrested inside the Capitol, an outside die-in was staged in front - and we each read out some of the American and Iraqi men women and children who have given their lives during this immoral war. It was very moving, and many of us cried for those who will never speak again. There were 55 police counted for 7 die in participants. In the end , only one was arrested for crossing the barrier. All for oil and the defense contractors!On International Peace Day, again the police were contemptuous of our activties. A group of about 9 were dressed in pink and visiting the memorials of Lincoln, Rossevelt and Jefferson. We were chanting and singing, holding fotos of the Iraqui dead! Eventually on some trumped up charges, one of the women was arrested and the rest of our names taken for future arrest! Washington is definitely a police district now!We also had wonderful potlucks and a very moving last evening with Betse Rose, our wonderful singer/songwriter from California. Very healing for all of us and a coming together!My heart goes out to the men and women of Code Pink - as a Washington Lawyer said, Code Pink does make a difference - viva la differance! Hasta Luego y PazIsabel

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