WASHINGTON — Some opponents of the Iraq war are taking their
protests straight to Congress — staging “occupations” in lawmakers’
offices on Capitol Hill and in their home communities.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel’s office in Chicago was targeted on Thursday.
Erin Cox of Chicago, left, gets handcuffed by Wausau Police officer Todd Baeten Monday, March 5, 2007, as three other peace activists are arrested at U.S. Rep. Dave Obey�s office in Wausau, Wis. Protesters are staging sit-ins in congressional offices in Minnesota and Wisconsin, part of a nationwide effort to pressure lawmakers to vote against funding for the war in Iraq. (AP Photo/Wausau Daily Herald, Corey Schjoth)
A day earlier protesters were headed off before getting into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in San Francisco.
Washington, peace activists dressed in pink showed up recently at the
Senate offices of presidential hopefuls John McCain and Hillary Rodham
protesters haven’t abandoned the larger, more familiar gatherings at
college campuses, major cities and monuments in Washington. But in
recent weeks, they have been turning up at congressional offices,
vowing to stay until they get pledges that lawmakers will vote against
more war funding — or until they are forcibly removed.
really see it as an extension of lobbying,” Jeff Leys, co-coordinator
of Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence, said of the office
occupations. “The aim is to keep going back time and time and time
The protesters number anywhere from a handful to a few
dozen. Sometimes, they stay for minutes. Sometimes, they remain for
hours before police move in.
Organizers count more than 140 arrests so far. Most involve charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.
the occupations, the protesters sit, stand, sing, chant, pray, ring
bells, and read letters from American troops sent home to their
The eight demonstrators at Emanuel’s office on
Thursday performed skits about the consequences of war, read names of
U.S. troops killed in Iraq and told stories about Iraqi children hurt
in the fighting. They were welcomed by a staffer into the lobby of the
Sometimes, though, the protesters don’t even get through the front door.
20 demonstrators gathered outside Pelosi’s San Francisco office on
Wednesday. Before they could enter, a Pelosi staffer ushered the group
down to a conference room seven floors below, where many voiced
frustration that Pelosi was not being aggressive enough in seeking an
end to the war.
The anti-war groups are setting their sights on
Republicans, like McCain. But they’re also lining up against Democrats,
like Pelosi, who were opposed to the war from the very beginning.
who know there is an alternative, we want to put some pressure on them
to do the right thing,” said Gael Murphy, co-founder of Codepink, an
anti-war group with a name that serves as a poke at the Bush
administration’s color-coded terror alert system. Pink, the group says,
Occupations have been held at the offices of
Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and
Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and David Obey of Wisconsin. All four
Democrats voted against the 2002 measure authorizing the war.
this week, Obey was confronted outside his Capitol office by war
opponents, prompting a heated exchange in which Obey shouted at one
women who wanted him to vote against money for the war.
video posted on the Internet site YouTube, the Democratic lawmaker is
seen pounding his fist repeatedly into the air, complaining loudly that
Democrats don’t have enough votes to cut off war funding and the
protesters don’t understand the debate in Congress.
“That makes no sense. It doesn’t work that way,” Obey says at one point.
Minnesota, protesters are pressuring most congressional offices,
including that of Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, a former anti-war
protester himself from the Vietnam era. He is considered one of the
most vulnerable senators seeking re-election next year.
supported the Iraq war resolution as a candidate in 2002, but he was
also one of just two Republicans last month to vote to allow debate on
a resolution critical of President Bush’s plan to send more troops to
Two of the weekly protesters at Coleman’s St. Paul office
are nuns Rita and Kate MacDonald. Older sister Rita, 84, said they want
to stir up the old anti-war feelings in the college protester-turned
“It certainly is my hope that that could come back for
him — being convinced that war is totally futile, especially this war,”
Last month, Bush asked Congress to approve an
additional $93.4 billion for war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
this year. Democrats, angry about the war but divided over whether to
cut funding, are considering ways to attach conditions to any
To date, there are two pledges against Bush’s
war supplemental request, organizers said. Both are from Democrats from
Massachusetts — Reps. Martin Meehan and Edward Markey. Markey, however,
has said he would consider war funding that had conditions attached,
such as redeployments.
The campaign was organized by Voices for
Creative Nonviolence. The occupations, the group says, are intended to
coincide with other anti-war efforts, such as rallies and marches.
anti-war demonstration is planned for Washington on March 17, when
protesters will march from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the
Pentagon. A January protest in the city drew tens of thousands of
people, including actress Jane Fonda.
Press writers Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, F.N. D’Alessio in
Chicago and Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 by the Associated Press