Decked in pink scarves, pink hats, pink skirts and pink pants, a group of women, and a few men, made a call for peace Wednesday afternoon.
"Honk for Peace," their pink signs said.
"Bring them home."
Marchers calling for the end to U. S. involvement in Iraq approach Peratrovich Park for a rally Wednesday afternoon along Fourth Avenue downtown. Codepink, a peace and social justice movement, sponsored the event on International Women's Day. (Photo: Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News)
"Save USA: Dick, take George hunting."
A man looking a little nervous stopped in his tracks as this procession from the group Codepink worked its way down Anchorage's Fourth Avenue. He could read the signs, but what he wanted to know was, what was up with all the pink?
"Code pink" is a play on the Bush administration's color-coded terror alert system, local organizer Michelle Wilson Nordhoff explained earlier. "I just think it's a really powerful way to go up against the "Code Red" fear tactics that isolate people."
Codepink, with 250 chapters, is a grass-roots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, prevent further wars and redirect resources to things like health care and education. The group held its first rally here three years ago in an unsuccessful bid to stop the invasion of Iraq.
As did that rally, Wednesday's came on International Women's Day, observed by women's groups around the world. Codepink activists chose this day to organize similar rallies in 65 U.S. cities and 18 countries, according to Wilson Nordhoff. She didn't expect a huge turnout since it was the middle of the workweek, in the middle of a work day.
"But we're connected to a larger voice of women around the world."
The local effort actually began while most of Anchorage was sleeping. Anchorage activist Karen Button represented her home contingent by meeting that morning with Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Washington, D.C., before joining the rally going on there.
Button recently returned from Jordan, where she's been interviewing Iraqis who've fled their country.
"Every Iraqi I've met thus far has told me, without exception, that 'Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, and I hated him,' " Button said by cell phone from D.C. "'But ... we had security, we had food, we had electricity, we had water, we had jobs. And these are all things we don't have now.' There's not an Iraqi I have met who said they wanted the coalition forces to stay."
This is what she wanted Murkowski to hear.
Just before 3 p.m. in Anchorage, about two dozen women in pink gathered in front of Murkowski's office on L Street. While most of the protesters manned the sidewalk, others crammed into an elevator and headed to the fifth floor to deliver a "Women's Call for Peace" proclamation to Murkowski staff director Mary Hughes. And then Diane Benson, whose son lost parts of both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq, emotionally urged an end to the madness.
"I've sat with the face of war," she said of the time she spent beside her son's military hospital bed. "I've sat with young men and women without legs, without eyes, without faces even. You don't forget that."
While these women were making their plea, three police cars were parked out front. By the time they returned to the sidewalk, there were four police cars. Ten minutes after that, there were five. But women waving and motorists honking was as out of hand as things got.
Not so in Washington, D.C., where peace mom Cindy Sheehan and one of the founders of Codepink were among those arrested for criminal trespass outside the U.S. mission to the United Nations, where they were attempting to deliver a petition calling for the war's end.
After delivering their proclamation, local protesters marched on, singing most of the way, to Elizabeth Peratrovich Park on Fourth Avenue, gaining supporters along the way. There, they planted signs and banners in the snow and handed out pink plastic roses and the words to peace songs.
By then, the group had grown to about 75.
Cheryl Hilmes is an Anchorage teacher who helped coordinate the rally and performed with the group, Whirled Peas. She first learned about Codepink from her 68-year-old father, a volunteer with the organization in upstate New York and now working with Hurricane Katrina victims through another Codepink project.
Hilmes is also a veteran, who served four-and-a-half years in the Air Force as a nurse.
"We support the people in the service, and at the same time stand very firmly against this war, a war that was not founded on truth," she said. "This is not the world I want my own child to see; it's not the world I want my students to see.
"Anchorage is a tough place to stand up and say that."
Copyright © 2006 The Anchorage Daily News