War protest in O.C. ends in 6 arrests
Six antiwar demonstrators were arrested Wednesday at the Garden Grove office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) after camping there overnight and telling her they wouldn’t leave unless she promised not to approve more funding for the war in Iraq.
Most of the protesters are members of the group Military Families Speak Out, and some have relatives in the armed forces. They entered the office about 7 p.m. Tuesday during an open house. They sat on the floor in the lobby and refused to leave unless the congresswoman made the statement they wanted. Sanchez, who opposes the war, refused.
The lawmaker’s staff initially chose not to call police and allowed the group to stay overnight. Police removed the protesters in handcuffs about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, while Sanchez was attending a meeting of Orange County Latino leaders.
The protesters were taken to the Garden Grove Police Department, where they were issued misdemeanor citations for trespassing.
Five were released pending an October court hearing, but Robert Dietrich was being held because he refused to sign a document promising to appear in court.
Sanchez, Orange County’s only Democratic member of Congress, voted in 2002 against giving President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. More recently she voted to begin pulling troops out within 90 days.
Tuesday night Sanchez said she could not support the protesters because the $145 billion in Iraq war funding was in the same bill that would provide money to build the C-17 aircraft in California.
“I never voted for this war,” she said. But “I’m not going to vote against $2.1 billion for C-17 production, which is in California. That is just not going to happen.”
Protesters did not accept Sanchez’s argument.
“This is a war that was made up and people are dying, and there is no reason for it,” said Ed Garza, who was one of those arrested and who has a nephew in the military.
Medea Benjamin, who was not at the protest, said, “It’s quite immoral for Sanchez to say she is more concerned about jobs in her district than the lives of our soldiers.” Benjamin is co-founder of the national women’s peace group Code Pink.
Declaring the start of the sit-in, Patricia Alviso, whose son has served two tours in Iraq, said, “We risk arrest to demonstrate the level of our commitment to peace, and we risk arrest because our children risk far more.”
Once seated on the lobby floor, Alviso began reading the names of Californians killed in Iraq.
“Jeromy D. West,” she said.
“God forgive us,” the others responded.
“God forgive us.”
Such sit-ins have become more popular in the last year because of war critics’ desperation over the situation in Iraq, Benjamin said
Before Congress approved $95 billion for the Iraq war in March, protesters conducted sit-ins in the offices of several Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. Also targeted were the offices of Republican critics of the war, such as Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
Democrats have been targeted more than Republicans by the nonpartisan Military Families Speak Out because they control Congress, co-founder Nancy Lessin said.
Code Pink is planning to camp out and conduct a hunger strike next week at the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).
When protesters refused to leave Sanchez’s office Wednesday, more than a dozen police officers surrounded it.
“We respect freedom of speech. The congresswoman voted against the war and spoke to the group yesterday,” Sanchez spokeswoman Paula Negrete said in a statement.
“Their presence today would have interfered with federal business in providing much needed services to our constituents, such as passport assistance, receiving Social Security checks, family petitions and making sure constituents are able to receive their Medicare benefits,” the statement said.
Garden Grove Police Lt. Travis Whitman said the protesters “offered no resistance and cooperated fully.”
Those arrested were Garza, 60, of Santa Ana; Alviso, 55, of Huntington Beach; Dietrich, 61, of Los Angeles; Jarret Lovell, 34, of Costa Mesa; Abraham Ramirez, 23, of Fullerton; and Tutrang Tran, 25.