Paula Reports from Washingtion, Part II

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Brenda, Betsy, and Paula

9-14-07
Today I met Betsy and another woman from the Bay Area, Brenda, a poet and college teacher, to visit Congressional offices. Brenda has worked with Code Pink too. She has made three or four trips at her own expense to lobby Congress about the war. I was so impressed by how together she was on how to do this. She got names of lots of military sub-committee chairs, looked up each person’s positions, and wrote a letter to each. We showed up without appointment (and in many cases weren’t constituents), and asked if any staffer could see us to tell us about how if at all the Rep’s view had changed after the Petreus testimony. To my surprise, usually someone came out to talk to us and although they didn’t invite us into an office to sit down, we often had a 5-10 minute conversation. We saw about 6. Disturbing to me, these staffers were all male but one. They were usually young (25-30) and articulate. We were very polite, told them our views, asked questions, and learned a lot. It was quite satisfying. We got a dispersion of views. Most democrats claim to want to end the war, but most are also, in the final analysis, voting for the supplemental funding bills without time limits. Brenda had also adopted the strategy of always leaving her envelope (addressed to the Rep) unsealed and inviting the staffer or admin person to read it before passing it on. (After all, these staffers have power, and the more people see it, the better.)

In the Sam Rayburn building, right opposite the entrance is a sunny atrium with a status of Rayburn. The acoustics looked great, so as we were leaving, Betsy and I sang, acapella “Peace, Shalom, Salaam.” We decided if the guards came and told us we couldn’t do that, we’d leave. Actually, they paid no attention. The acoustics were beautiful. We harmonized. We may bring a group back Monday to sing there.

In the afternoon, I want to a celebration that the Code Pink and other groups had planned at the Justice Department. Recall that Alberto Gonzales resigned a month or so ago. Well, today was his last day. So they showed up in pink with doughnuts with flags in them, champagne glasses and Sprite to toast, party horns etc to celebrate. People carried little copies of the Constitution. Maybe 30 people came. They hoped to see him leave, but no sign of him. Again Betsy led some songs. I so much more like the tone the demonstrations take when people are singing and swaying together with positive messages than shouting accusations. My main role was to hold the mike in front of Betsy’s mouth (and sing along). One of the guards kept not being able to help smiling at us. Many people honked in support. I was interviewed by an NPR reporter named Ari Shapiro about why I was there.

Betsy said that last night, after I left the White House demonstration, she was interviewed by an American guy who got disgusted with corporate media and now is a photographer for Al Jazeera. She also said that 3 young people about 20 there had walked across the country to protest the war, and this was the culmination, and they wanted to get arrested and thought they could do it by camping in the park across from the White House. The old hands told them the cops would ignore them, so if they wanted to be arrested they should attempt to cross the tape they had put up to keep up off the sidewalk in front of the white house. So they approached it, and the remaining protesters followed and the police came in and things were getting a bit tense. Betsy started singing (I can’t remember what) and people joined in and everthing relaxed. And the police removed the tape. She isn’t sure if it was a good will gesture, or if their permit expired at 10:00. Betsy had wanted to go and talk to a cop and express that she didn’t see him as the enemy. She did and they were both chatting and he asked “Do those kids want to get arrested?” She said yes and basically he worked out that they did and the group cheered as they were taken off.

I’m in the lobby of my hotel writing this and two people here from a peace group in Texas for tomorrow’s march are also in the lobby (I struck up a conversation based on their t-shirts).

I’m exhausted and going to bed. — Paula

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3 Responses to “Paula Reports from Washingtion, Part II”

  1. nancy Says:

    Paula:

    I keep hearing your voice singing “Peace, Shalom, Shalom.”

    Know that I am with you in spirit. You can turn around and I know you’ll see me.

    Many thanks for the reports.

    I have recorded occasions of exchanges with police officers, too, on September 19, 2006, at the Harlem demonstration this spring, and on December 6, 2006 in front of Macy’s, which was tense.

    The fact is that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not approve of the Bush regime, want the occupation of Iraq ended now and our personnel brought home, and want to see our democracy restored. That means a lot of police officers do, too.

    Keeping you close and sending

    Love,
    Nancy

  2. george Says:

    Paula:

    Your stories about Code Pink and your protest adventures are inspiring and encouraging. Thanks for going to take action and also for writing about it to share your experiences. It is so important that there be visible opposition in this country to the damage that has been done to our democracy and to this illegal and immoral war.
    I look forward very much to your postings.

    George

  3. Nancy goes to Crawford » Blog Archive » What People Are Doing Today Says:

    […] http://danceforpeace.org/nancy/?p=246 […]

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