Women from the Washington
area and across the country gathered in front of the White House yesterday to
kick off a four-month, 24-hour vigil to protest the possible war with Iraq.
"We feel that this is a time when our country is in great danger," said organizer
Medea Benjamin, 50, of San Francisco. "The Bush administration has begun a course
of militarism and violence that will beget more violence."
At least 30 women and a few men attended the rally, which started at Lafayette
Square and moved along Pennsylvania Avenue NW -- a small presence compared with
the tens of thousands who converged upon Washington last month to protest any
military action against Iraq.
But yesterday's crowd said that what it lacked in numbers it would make up
for in persistence.
At least six will stay in the park in four-day shifts until March 8, resting
on the ground in sleeping bags or on benches, organizers said. Some said they
will fast for days or even weeks. Many of the women wore pink jackets and buttons
that read "Code Pink -- Women for Peace."
"Bush says Code Red; we say Code Pink!" they shouted. "Women united -- We'll
never be divided!"
Many were members of human rights or women's groups, such as the National
Organization for Women. Others were simply mothers or grandmothers who wanted
to let President Bush know that they don't want another war. They want money to
go toward health care, education and other social services instead, they said.
"We are the mothers and wives and sisters of those who will be killed for
oil," said Anise Jenkins, 53, a D.C. activist who works as a secretary.
Loree Murray, 81, sported a button that said "Hail to the Thief" above a picture
of Bush. "The women, we're trying to teach peace. We're trying to teach the president
something," the D.C. resident said.
The protest was peaceful, with a few police officers on hand to monitor activities.
There were no counter-protesters, except for one man who walked past the group
and shouted, "War will be declared on us even if we don't do anything."
Diane Wilson, 54, traveled from a small town in Bush's home state of Texas
to participate in the vigil. A commercial fisherman who last year earned $12,000,
she said she wants the Bush administration to spend more money on health care
than war. She has never had health insurance. She plans to fast for 40 days and
had her last meal -- several slices of pizza -- Saturday night.
"I want to tell Bush and Congress exactly how we feel in small-town America,"
Kristi Laughlin, a human rights activist from San Francisco, visited Afghanistan
in June to see for herself the aftermath of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. She
said Kabul looked like the site of an archaeological dig.
"To see where our money goes and the end result of our production of weapons
and distribution of weapons, to me it was a sobering reality," she said.
Laughlin, 33, said that too often the Bush administration relies on aggression
rather than negotiation. The money spent on military campaigns is needed elsewhere,
she said, to help women and children.
Women -- and some men -- march near the White House in a protest of any U.S. strike
against Iraq. Some are planning to camp out in Lafayette Square until March 8.
(Photo-Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post)
© 2002 The Washington Post Company