Code Pink's Andrea Buffa: A Wise, Wry Smile on Face of Dissent
Published on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 by the Long Island, NY Newsday
Code Pink's Andrea Buffa:
A Wise, Wry Smile on Face of Dissent
by Dennis Duggan

When Andrea Buffa called her father, Michael, from a Manhattan police station on West 54th Street on Aug. 17, he shook his head.

"Not again," he said.

The Buffa family reluctantly accepts Andrea's decision to lead a strenuous and hardly remunerative life as a protester, which led to her arrest and overnight stay in jail last week.

Her father, however, wonders why, with all her education - a bachelor's degree from Yale University and master's from the University of California at Berkeley - she doesn't want to do something other than protest; say, writing books.

Andrea Buffa, 37, a petite, soft-spoken woman, has chosen a life that she describes as "very beautiful." She's the antithesis of the hard-line anarchists police have been warning us about the last few weeks.

"I resent the press and the police and the way they are portraying us, trying to scare the public," she said over lunch in the garment district yesterday.

The protests she participates in as a member of Code Pink is more humorous than acrimonious, much like the discussions at the dinner table in her family's Merrick home.

"We kid about my protest work," she said of her family. "When my nieces say they don't want to shower, I tell them to lock the door and not come out in protest. Their mother laughs and tells them, 'If you do that, I will go on strike and not cook dinner.'

"My parents are conventional," she continued. "My father is a dentist in Bellmore and donated to the first Bush campaign, and my brother is a Wall Street worker. But when we argue, we do so gently, often humorously and without anger."

But it's clear in talking to her that she is angry at the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denied protesters access to Central Park and at the press and police for portraying demonstrators as anarchists.

Yet, none of the adverse publicity about body-pierced radicals in dark clothing, or threats of arrests have unnerved her confidence in anti-war causes.

For those causes, she has chained herself to fences, picketed for four months in front of the White House, worn a pig's costume in Houston, spent several weeks in bomb-torn Iraq, and last Tuesday spent the night in a holding cell on West 54th Street for unfurling a banner from a window across the street from the mayor in midtown.

The banner protested the mayor's decision to keep demonstrators off the Great Lawn in Central Park. Unfurling it in midtown endangered the public safety and was an illegal advertisement, police charged.

At the time of Buffa's arrest, Bloomberg was holding a news conference extending a welcome to "peaceful protesters," offering them discounts on meals and Broadway shows.

"I heard the police knocking at the door and shouting, and we tried to get the banner unfurled, but they came in and handcuffed us, put us in a van and took us to the police precinct," Buffa said. "I was kept overnight, but the other girls were released that day, I guess because I have an out of state driver's license."

Buffa usually dresses in a Statue of Liberty costume with a pink crown. Her group, Code Pink, which is named as an antidote to the color codes used by the Office of Homeland Security, sometimes issues pink slips to establishment types.

In State Supreme Court today, an umbrella group called United for Peace and Justice will find out if its suit to hold a huge rally in Central Park on Sunday will be approved.

So far, things don't auger well. A federal judge yesterday decided against two groups that wanted to stage a massive rally in the park on Saturday, saying security and the grass took priority.

Buffa plans to march Sunday, whether to the park or somewhere else. That's because those plans were shaped a long time ago, at Friends Academy, a Quaker School in Locust Valley. "They taught me about simplicity and modesty," she said.

Buffa's is a hard life - low pay and 15-hour-a-day work.

Nonetheless, she is determined to resist the enticements of capitalism, Medea Benjamin, 51, one of the founders of Code Pink, said yesterday.

"She would go through brick walls and then some on behalf of making the world a better and safer place in which to live," said Benjamin.

© Copyright 2004 Associated Press