Paula Reports from Washington, Part I

I came to DC this week to protest the war in Iraq. Several weeks ago, BetsyRose, a singer/Buddhist/feminist/activist friend of mine, circulated an e-mail saying that she had started working with Code Pink, and that she was coming in part to bring the healing and energy of song to the protesters. I felt moved to come with her, both because of my frustration that Congress isn’t ending the war, and also because I love singing with her and had this idea that song can help keep us open hearted rather than demonizing-the-enemy while working for peace.

This morning I went to the house Code Pink has rented in DC for the year, where activists can come for a week or months at a time to work. Betsy is staying there (I’m in a nearby hotel. It is just blocks from the Capitol. I met “Ann,” a sensible-seeming woman about my age and only later realized that this was the Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright that Nancy Van Ness had met at Camp Casey in Crawford. She was in the army for over 25 years and then in the state department, and resigned in protest over the war in Iraq.

ann2.jpg Ann Wright
The spirit at the house is very friendly, with about a dozen women staying there and planning demonstrations. Most seem to be baby boomers but some are younger.

I had made an appointment with the staffer to my House Rep. Anna Eshoo, who voted against the war and the surge. The staffer was an earnest young man about 25. I told him I was there because I feel we should get out at a much faster pace than Bush is proposing (actually he has NO timetable), and that, while I take the point that there may be a bloodbath when we leave, I don’t see that that will be different in two years, except that more will have died, and the costs in lives, money, and world opinion are enormous. Since I know Eshoo agrees with this, I asked him what he thinks the right strategy is. He said the democrats are in a tough place because without getting a number of Republicans to join them, they just don’t have the votes.

I’ve been telling ordinary people I meet, in the subway, cab drivers, that I’m here to protest the war. My two African cab drivers enthusiastically agreed. One lectured me on how George Washington warned against invading other countries unless they attack us. The other knew of Code Pink and chuckled admiringly. The strategy of a distinctive name like Code Pink and members wearing lots of pink has really worked. A black woman of 68 that I sat on the subway with was coming home from her second job of the day at 10 p.m. Her deceased husband was in Viet Nam. She’s against this war, and commented (it seemed she was referring to the black community) that she especially didn’t like it because all “the good men” trying to “make something of themselves” are the ones in the military, and they’re dying or becoming disabled while the “thugs and gangsters” are the ones left back at home.

Tonight Code Pink and some others planned a demonstration right in front of the White House starting an hour before Bush’s speech. (As I write this, I don’t know what he said, although we of course knew in advance roughly his proposal.) About 50 people showed up. The Code Pink people are quite theatrical. One of them had a HUGE head that looks like Bush on as a mask and wore prison stripes.


Others take out police tape and wear badges and blow whistles and shout things like “Arrest this war criminal.” The Park Police or White House police (I’m not sure which) would not let us demonstrate on the sidewalk in front of the White House. Someone announced (various people had bullhorns with mikes) that the Park Police, who give OUT parade permits, had themselves taken out a demonstration permit for the sidewalk to keep us off it, which some thought was a big bogus on the Civil Liberties front. As a practical matter, it didn’t matter much because we were in the street right beyond the sidewalk, which is like a mall with no cars on it.

Some young people came with drums. Betsy had her guitar and she and I started singing songs that we thought people would know and sometimes someone put a mike in front of her and others joined us singing and the drummers were with us. Only simple, loud songs that lots of people knew or one could pick up instantly worked. We did “Down by the riverside (ain’t gonna study war no more.)”, some wonderful South African protest song I had never heard but picked up easily, a nice one that goes “Peace, Shalom, Salaam,” and a few more I can’t remember. The music does change the spirit of it; you can feel it. At least so it seemed to me.

Now I must sleep. More tomorrow. ———Paula


2 Responses to “Paula Reports from Washington, Part I”

  1. nancy Says:


    I am very moved by the way you are letting people you meet as you go about the city know why you are there and the remarks that draws from them. I know that the singing matters. People join in and mike you all because it matters.

    Glad you met Ann, who is one of my heroes. Sleep well. Take care.


  2. nancy Says:

    More on Ann Wright

    There is a link to an article Ann wrote recently about being detained recently at the Canadian border when she want to protest Bush there. Just scroll down till you get to it. And putting her name in the search browser will find other entries about and by her and photographs.

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