- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

Code Pink is seeing red, as anti-war activists take a more aggressive and confrontational approach in spreading their message of peace.

Protesters in the past two weeks have held sit-ins from Capitol Hill to California, disrupted congressional hearings and argued publicly with lawmakers — even anti-war ones.

“We’ve stepped up our tactics because we feel betrayed,” said Medea Benjamin, spokeswoman for Code Pink, which wants an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Tuesday night, an anti-war activist donning a pink scarf sneaked into a D.C. fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and was forcibly removed after interrupting the New York Democrat’s speech, chanting “What about Iraq?”

Four Code Pink protesters were arrested outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office Thursday after ignoring requests by police to cease chanting and singing anti-war songs, which included John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said anti-war demonstrations on Capitol Hill have increased significantly in recent weeks, resulting in several misdemeanor arrests.

In the San Francisco area Monday, police arrested 57 anti-war activists during demonstrations to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. war in Iraq. Some blocked noontime traffic by sprawling on the ground to mimic war casualties. None resisted arrest, police said.

While violence and vandalism haven’t been the norm, the Lansing, Mich., office of Rep. Mike Rogers, Republican, was splattered with red paint earlier this week. The vandals left a sign accusing the congressman of having “blood” on his hands for supporting the war.

Protesters also have resurrected other tactics made popular during the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements in the 1960s, including sit-ins, sing-alongs and other disruptive but nonviolent demonstrations.

A coalition of Maryland anti-war groups occupied a state office of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat, for four weeks, reading the names of those who have died in the war. The senator agreed to meet with them this week.

While it’s uncertain how many anti-war and peace groups are active across the country, Code Pink is considered the largest and best organized one.

The group, which was founded in late 2002 by a handful of women, now has a national membership of more than 150,000, including men.

Code Pink has increased its profile on Capitol Hill in recent weeks in an attempt to influence Congress to vote against the $124 billion Iraq war emergency-supplemental bill, which passed the House yesterday.

Two Code Pink members seated in the visitors gallery of the House chambers were arrested yesterday after shouting, “Don’t buy this war, it’s wrong” and “You buy it, you own it,” as lawmakers began voting.

Even well-known leftists haven’t been immune from Code Pink’s disruptive practices, as several pink-clad protesters briefly distrupted former Vice President Al Gore’s testimony on global warming Wednesday at the Rayburn House Office Building. Although not protesting Mr. Gore, the group used the former presidential candidate’s high-profile trip to Capitol Hill to shout anti-war slogans.

“We are speaking on behalf of millions of people in this country,” said Code Pink co-founder Gael Murphy. “We may look funny [dressed in pink], but that’s really to get more attention.”

Code Pink, which has stagged a vigil outside Mrs. Pelosi’s California home for more than a week, say they are upset with the speaker’s support of the supplemental bill.

“This is simply inside politics from inside the Democratic Party,” Miss Benjamin said. The speaker “has bumped a lot of our friends in Congress into being fence-sitters on this issue or even caused them to betray their principles.”

Yet the group says it uses disruptive demonstrations only as a last resort, preferring dialogue over demonstrations.

“We don’t just use demonstrations and sit-ins and arrest scenarios to try to make our point — we lobby as well,” said Miss Murphy, who was arrested at a House committee hearing earlier this month.

Miss Murphy said her group meets regularly with members of Congress and their staffs to plead their anti-war case.

Although the House passed the emergency-supplementary bill yesterday, Code Pink said it won’t give up its fight as the Senate begins its deliberations on a similar message and will continue its protests until the war is over.

“It’s getting serious now,” Miss Murphy said. “We’ll definitely be busy.”

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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