CodePink Faces Tough Odds For Public's Attention

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Associated Press

CodePink Faces Tough Odds For Public's Attention

by
Christine Simmons

In this Oct. 24, 2007 file photo, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, right, is confronted by Code Pink member Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz, her hands painted red, as she arrives to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

WASHINGTON - Kelly Jacobs will be wearing dresses made from a
"peace flag" every day at the Democratic National Convention. As a
delegate and a CodePink activist, she'll don bright pink earrings,
shoes and backpacks - and hundreds of peace and pink-colored buttons.

"There's no getting away from the peace message. It's on my neck down to my waist," said Jacobs, 49.

The
Mississippi activist, who is a delegate for Hillary Rodham Clinton, is
one of about 20 CodePink women attending the Democratic convention.
They probably won't be disruptive inside. But CodePink members outside
the Denver convention are planning to stage parades, protests, concerts
and other theatrics - anything to keep the anti-war message alive.

These
are hard times for peace activists. Despite CodePink's flashy costumes
and willingness to disrupt campaign events and congressional hearings -
sometimes facing arrest for it - the women are finding it more
difficult to maintain public attention on the Iraq war.

Americans
are now focused more on the gasoline prices they're paying, declining
values of their homes and other economic issues. The ups and downs in a
highly contested presidential election also have edged Iraq off the
front page and evening newscasts most days.

"We do feel to some
extent that these elections have sabotaged our peace actions and
messaging because ... the media is completely focused on the two
candidates," said CodePink activist Liz Hourican, who moved here from
Arizona a year and a half ago to devote her time to ending the war.
"It's a lot more challenging."

And while Iraqi and American
officials are discussing a pullout of U.S. combat troops from major
Iraqi cities by next June and a broader withdrawal by 2011, CodePink
members say they won't be satisfied until all U.S. forces are back from
Iraq. "We'd like a timeline that is shorter," said co-founder Medea
Benjamin.

Congress' decision this summer to fund U.S. operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year with $162 billion was a setback,
but CodePink already was on the campaign trail, "bird-dogging"
presidential candidates and unfurling anti-war banners at their events.

Republican
John McCain is a favorite target. "Just about every place McCain goes,
we have somebody confronting him," Benjamin said. "We want the
undecided voters ... to see we associate McCain with more war and with
the failed Bush policy, and, of course, we want the media to cover it."

The
activists' campaign on Capitol Hill didn't stop. Before Congress left
for recess, the women in their pink outfits scoured the halls almost
daily. They seated themselves behind witnesses at hearings unrelated to
the war, flashing pink anti-war posters at TV cameras recording, for
example, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talking about the
collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns.

"There's a lot of very
creative people in the group," Hourican said. "They make so many
different crafty, visually brilliant things, and they love using their
talents to push this along and see their costume on the news."

Obama's
people haven't exactly welcomed them. A group of women went to his
Washington office last month seeking to meet with a foreign policy aide
but only got a promise in the hallway they would be contacted and given
more information on the Democratic candidate's policies. His office
never called back.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

When Congress returns in September, so will
the women in their pink garb. Without a war funding bill to protest,
they'll lobby against going to war in Iran and protest alleged abuses
by military contractors. "As long as Congress is sitting and not doing
the people's bidding, then we're going to be here," said Gael Murphy,
another CodePink co-founder.

CodePink - a mocking reference to
the government's color-coded terror alert system - started as a vigil
in front of the White House in November 2002 to protest a war with
Iraq. The vigil culminated in a women's peace march to the Capitol four
months later when the war began.

Soon afterward, other chapters
"spontaneously started all over the country," Murphy said. The group
now has 250 chapters and 200,000 people on its mailing list.

At
any given time, at least six CodePink members live in a three-story
group house near Capitol Hill that is decorated with pink curtains and
"peace" banners. Times and locations of major congressional hearings
and demonstrations for the day are written on a self-erase board. Just
as prominent is the phone number for U.S. Capitol Police, a source for
learning which activists have been arrested, the charges against them
and the bail needed.

In Denver this week and at the Republican
nominating convention next week in St. Paul, Minn., CodePink has
orchestrated an array of anti-war protests. "Pink Police" riding
in-line skates who will hold signs reading "stop war, yield for peace"
and bicycle brigades will rally against what the activists call
America's addiction to oil and war.

"You can't be green and be
pro-war," said co-founder Benjamin. "In general, both parties have kept
us down this militaristic path and neglected our basic needs."

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