Neighbors: Code Pink Quiet

Published on
by
The Washington Times

Neighbors: Code Pink Quiet

by
Gary Emerling

Members of an antiwar group with a penchant for dramatic and faux-bloody protests in the halls of Congress have proved to be model citizens a few blocks away in their Capitol Hill town house.1102 07Code Pink - a mostly female protest group best known for their pink costumes - has taken up residence in a Northeast house within walking distance of the Capitol. And while some in the politically astute neighborhood say they disagree with Code Pink's views or tactics, they also say the group hasn't proved to be too disruptive a neighbor.

"I have not liked it simply because of what they represent," said Marlene Wawrzyniak, a legal assistant who works out of an office near the house at 712 Fifth St. NE. "They're entitled to their opinion ... I'm just glad I'm not right next door to them."

Mrs. Wawrzyniak said she has heard a commotion from the house at times - like when former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales resigned in August.

But Renee Howell and Ruhani Syed, who have lived near the intersection of Fifth and H streets for 14 years, described group members as calm and pleasant in the community.

Tamara Alfson, who lives two doors down from the Code Pink house, said that group members often invite her to the home, and that on one visit she met Dr. Patch Adams.

"They've been wonderful neighbors to us," Miss Alfson said.

Doug Townsend, another neighbor whose wife sometimes participates in Code Pink protests, said he loves the group, although he doesn't always agree with its tactics.

Last week, group member Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz of Los Angeles rushed Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a House hearing. The protester wrapped her arms around the secretary and screamed "war criminal" while showing her red-painted hands.

"Here in the neighborhood they're very peaceful," Mr. Townsend said. "They don't cause any trouble."

The three-story, five-bedroom brownstone occupied by the activists has a preliminary 2008 assessed value of $678,150, according to city land records. Attempts to reach its owner, listed as an "L. Fleming" of Northwest, were unsuccessful.

The house itself is indistinguishable from its neighbors - except for the political signs that dot the front yard.

A pink sign hanging on the front door lists Bush administration officials - with check marks next to those who have resigned or left their posts. Signs sporting slogans like "Stop Funding War" and "Impeach Them Both" dot the front yard, and a pink peace sign provides a backdrop to a window above the front door.

According to the group's Web site, the house is called the "DC Activist House." Its doors are open to activists "who can commit to being in D.C. for a week or longer."

There is no cost to stay at the house - which is leased for the group's use - although donations are encouraged and members are expected to pay $5 to $10 a day for food. The Web site says that each bedroom can house two to four activists each.

Groups opposed to Code Pink have complained that the activists have violated D.C. zoning laws by running a lobbying operation out of the home.

In May, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, charging that Code Pink's activities at the R-4-zoned property flout city regulations.

The complaint notes that municipal regulations prohibit operation of a rooming or boarding house to "transient guests who stay 90 days or less at the premises."

It also says that advertising the property as a "transient accommodation" violates city law and that operating a "central dining or food preparation area" for transient guests is prohibited. Code Pink hosts a potluck dinner for house residents and others on Wednesday nights.

"This is a residential neighborhood, zoned specifically for that purpose," said James F. Peterson, a Judicial Watch attorney. "The point is they've been openly doing this, the neighbors aren't happy and from our perspective, nobody's above the law."

DCRA spokeswoman Karyn-Siobhan Robinson said agency officials are monitoring the situation at the house. She said an inspector visited the home in July on a routine matter not related to a complaint.

"We are aware of the concerns of the neighbors," Ms. Robinson said. "DCRA is looking into this matter and will take appropriate action as necessary. We're doing our appropriate due diligence to see exactly what is going on."

Kristinn Taylor, a co-leader of the D.C. Chapter of FreeRepublic.com who lives in Silver Spring, said neighbors have complained that Code Pink does not properly dispose of its trash and that people come and go from the house at all hours of the night.

He also said the group sometimes uses a bus that affects parking in the area.

"They're operating a business," said Mr. Taylor, who has helped organize protests in front of the home on Wednesday nights. "They're having anywhere from 20 to 30 people staying there any given week by their own statements."

But Code Pink member Gael Murphy said that most of the group's neighbors are fine with their presence and that the house is in compliance with city law.

"They visited the house," she said, referring to a city inspection. "We did what was necessary and we're in compliance."

© 2007 The Washington Times

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