Local activist arrested in D.C.
After working so hard for so many weeks with so many people to pressure congressional Democrats to vote “No” on the Iraq War Supplemental, or support the Lee Amendment that would fund only the safe and orderly withdrawal of troops, I felt I had no choice but to ensure that a voice of dissent was heard in the House.
I entered the capitol building with Marine mom Tina Richards, Military Families Speak Out co-founder Nancy Lessin and two others. I was wearing black, clearly marked with Code Pink — Women for Peace — and my hands were covered with “stage” blood. We waited in line, passed through security, waited inside the Capitol and were finally admitted to the House Gallery.
Richards and I were seated in the front row, directly behind the Democrats. As Speaker Pelosi addressed Congress, Richards held up a photo of her son, Cloy, and refused to put it away. She wanted to remind Congress, many of whom had met with her in the previous weeks, that her son could be recalled to active duty and deployed to Iraq, for the third time, if they fund the Supplemental. She was escorted out of the gallery by four plain-clothes capitol police officers and removed from the building. They did not want to arrest her, told her so and showed regret at her plight and were kind to her as they ejected her.
As the speaker wrapped up her address by twisting the peace movement’s talking points to her purpose, making it seem as if the interests of American and international peace groups were truly being served by the passing of this bill, I felt physically ill. Pelosi was co-opting our truth and besmirching it with her partisan spin. The feeling of betrayal was overwhelming and my heart started to pound with an outrage that rivaled that of the dismay and anger I felt over “Shock and Awe.”
Congress quickly moved for a voice vote on the bill. When the applause faded and legislators moved to cast their electronic votes for the record I recognized that my time had arrived. I quickly stood, held my bloody hands in the air and shouted, “Don’t buy this war.”
I was grabbed by the capitol officer who had stationed himself next to me, expecting just this type of disturbance, and pulled into the aisle. I continued, “You’re buying it and you own it!” Four more officers surrounded me and lifted me by my elbows up the stairs as I shouted, “Troops home now! Troops home now! Troops home now!” Another activist, Tighe Barry, picked up the cry from another area in the gallery as they dragged me out, sustaining the dissent for a few more moments. We were both cuffed and taken away by police quite efficiently and without violence.
I realize that our actions did not change the way the votes fell, but the spirit of true change was recognized in the capitol. Pelosi and the Blue Dogs got what they wanted legislatively. They got their money, but they also got the message that the cost was much greater than $100 billion.
They did not, however, get it quietly, floating their political maneuvering under the radar. We made sure everyone in the gallery and maybe those watching at home on C-SPAN realized that there are those in the public who disagree, that there are Americans who don’t believe more money for war is supporting the troops. I truly hope that all members of Congress understand that we will continue to mourn and dissent until they act responsibly and bring our troops home now.
Lori Perdue is a native of Indiana, mother of two teenagers, a United States Air Force Veteran and is officially affiliated with Code Pink — Women for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out.