A pair of shouting demonstrators, disrupting the testimony of Lt. Col. Oliver North, unfurled a banner inside the Senate Caucus Room today accusing Nicaragua’s contra rebels of drug smuggling.
North, tight-lipped and grim-faced, watched as police struggled with the two men and then dragged them from the crowded room.
“I’m glad they weren’t shooting,” North said to someone sitting nearby. He later refused to discuss the incident.
The demonstrators were identified as Michael L. Kreis, 41, and Michael E. Bardoff, 34, both of Baltimore.
Dan Nichols, a spokesman for the Capitol police, said both men were arrested and will be charged with disrupting a congressional hearing and demonstrating within a Capitol building.
Both are misdemeanors, punishable with a six-month jail term or a $500 fine or both.
Although Capitol police spokesmen said the two were not affiliated with any protest group, Dick Ochs, coordinator of the Maryland chapter of the Pledge of Resistance, said both men were members of the organization, which is opposed to any U.S. involvement in Nicaragua.
When the incident occurred North was responding to a question. He was cut off in mid-sentence when the two well-dressed men leaped to their feet in the audience area at the rear of the Caucus Room.
“What about the cocaine dealing that the U.S. is paying for?” one shouted.
“Why don’t you ask how many noncombatants have been killed by the . . . contras?
“Why don’t you ask questions about drug deliveries?”
They raised a large banner inscribed with black letters: “Ask about cocaine smuggling.”
At least three congressional panels are looking into allegations that the contras and Americans who helped bring them arms were engaged in drug smuggling.
As he was carried off, one protester shouted a final question: “Why aren’t they asking hard questions?”