By Mele Stokesberry July 16, 2007
“ The Pink Report” from Washington DC
By Mele Stokesberry, Maui Peace Action, spending a week at CodePink House, epicenter of CodePink Women for Peace.
Date: Monday, July 16, 2007
I expected my first day with the CodePink activists in Washington, DC, to be hot, and fun and meaningful, and it was, in many ways.
Arriving on Sunday night, I was warmly welcomed with a healthy veggie meal, a good, thorough orientation and a comfortable bed. I am among 15 to 18 women from all over the USA, some staying for months as CodePink house staffers and interns, some, like myself, here for just a week to learn to be more effective in our peace work and to lobby our representatives for an end to the Iraq war. . All are giving up time and resources to come to this donor-supported, pink beehive of activism.
CodePink-ers occupy a 4-story row house near Union Station and within easy walking distance of the Capitol and the Senate and House office buildings that they haunt nearly daily in creative, pink outfits, studded with badges and taped- and pinned-on signs demanding an end to Iraq war funding, restoration of habeas corpus, the resignation of Alberto Gonzales and especially the return home of our troops- now!
Today, after meeting about what one can do and say in the halls of Congress and what will get you promptly arrested, our group of newbies was escorted by Desiree to the offices of our senators – Florida's, California's, Maine's and, of course, Hawaii's. Desiree really knows the tunnels between office buildings, including a short cut via the loading docks, and where to wait in the basement to get a chance, however fleeting, to speak to a Congress member and request support for an amendment.
I made appointments to see my Hawaii reps, Senator Akaka and Congresswoman Hirono, and back in the Russell Senate Office Building we sat down with Senator Inouye's legislative assistant, asking about the senator's likely support for the Levin-Reid amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, HR 1585. It would demand troop redeployment from Iraq to start by October and be completed by April 30, 2008. While no clear answers emerged, he did tell us that Senator Inouye is solidly backing efforts in Hawaii to test for, and clean up, depleted uranium at military firing ranges. That's great, but it was surprising that we seemed to have to inform the senator's aide about the fact that our military shoots depleted uranium in theaters of war.
At noon we walked to the Department of Justice building to join Code Pink's street demonstration demanding the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. “Alberto, go back to Texas, there's nothing quaint and obsolete about the Geneva Conventions! Kidnapping, torture, illegal eavesdropping, political firings, and you can't even recall...” were some of the slogans shouted from the bullhorn, as passers-by and drivers honked for peace and justice at the sign-wavers and at CodePink members in President Bush and Condileeza Rice costumes. For what it's worth, the temperature out there was a little hotter than noon on a windless August day in Lahaina.
For me, however, the high point today was meeting Leslie at the house and then seeing the story of her hunger strike and its happy result broadcast on Democracy Now (for Monday, July 16, at http://www.democracynow.org/streampage.pl)
Leslie fasted for 22 days while she petitioned Senator Joe Lieberman to meet with her about his comments regarding military action against Iran. Leslie has traveled in Iran and knows the people and country. She went to the senator's office daily asking for 5 minutes of his time to talk about why we shouldn't start dropping bombs on them. On the 21st day without food she fainted in his office and was arrested for it. Taken to a hospital, she was interviewed and on TV, and it was only then that Senator Lieberman agreed to give her a brief interview. On the 22nd day, she sat down with him and even brought into the interview a young bicyclist in the capitol as part of bike tour of Iranian citizens for peace. Leslie says she believes she and he made a difference, and that is what we are all here to learn to do.