Organizers from Code Pink: Women for Peace were vibrantly visible during counter-convention activities in New York. Members handed out pink and white “Peaceful New York Police” buttons to bemused cops, sported pig snouts and feather boas for a “Halllibacon” demo and raised a rose-tinted ruckus at a FOX News Shut-up-a-thon.
Not just in it for laughs, group members took their objections to the Iraq war to the floor of the Republican National Convention. For three nights in a row, Code Pink activists smuggled in banners, unveiled protest T-shirts and donned message-bearing pink slips, revealing themselves during key moments of high-profile speeches. Dragged away immediately by convention security, a few were subjected to questioning, while others like 40-year-old June Brashares, who disrupted Bush’s speech, face charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct.
On Thursday, the last day of the convention, In These Times interviewed Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, the first of the group to protest inside the convention. As we spoke in a cab on the way to a vigil in Union Square, our driver said he had seen a woman “beat up” by convention security on a channel broadcast from Pakistan. Told that the woman in question was in his backseat, he exclaimed “She’s great! I’ll tell all my friends. I am happy she traveled with me!”
Tell us about your adventure on the floor of the Republican National Convention.
On Tuesday, four of us went in, but I was the designated cannon fodder. It was during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech, and I got a floor pass and positioned myself as close to Dick Cheney as I could get.
I unfurled a banner, which said “Be Pro Life: Stop the Killing in Iraq.” Immediately, the security guards were on me, and I told them, “It’s a Republican message, pro-life, can’t you see it’s OK?” But I realized that whether I unfurled the banner or not, they were going to throw me out of there, so I waved up to Mr. Cheney, and I said “Mr. Cheney, Mr. Cheney” — and he looked at me and his mouth was kind of wide open, like “Shit these Code Pink women get everywhere!” — and I said, “How much money has Halliburton made in Iraq? Aren’t you ashamed of war profiteering? End the occupation, bring the troops home.”
By that time, they were tackling me, and I remember grabbing on to a banister as they were pulling me down, and suddenly being lifted up into the air and being thrown outside. Once we were outside, where the media couldn’t see, they threw me onto the floor and snatched my head off the ground, grabbed my arms and put them in handcuffs, and then picked me up by my hair and started running me down the hallway like I was Osama bin Laden or some crazy terrorist they had just nabbed.
Then they got me into this basement room and threw me down and then everything changed. The good cops came — Secret Service, NYPD detectives — and they did about two and a half hours of interrogation.
Quite a few Code Pink women got onto the floor of the RNC. What does that tell us about the Republicans’ ability to provide security?
Well, their security sucks! We got two women in on Monday, we got four women in on Tuesday, we got three women in on Wednesday, and I won’t tell you how many women we got in tonight [it turned out to be four], but we got ‘em in there!
Code Pink has been very innovative this week. What has it been like?
It’s been awesome. We deepened the network we have with the union folks, with different women’s groups.
I am disappointed in the Democratic leadership. I wish the Democrats would look back at this week and say, “We should have encouraged them to be out there, because it would have been wrong to let the Republicans have their convention without a stir.” I wish the Democrats had some cojones.
How can people get involved in Code Pink?
People can look us up on the Web, www.codepink4peace.org. Anybody who’s got time between now and the elections, join us — we’re going to Florida to do lots of organizing there to make sure this election isn’t stolen, and to make sure that if it is stolen, on November 3 we mobilize. We just turn people out in the streets and we stop them.
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