Antiwar activists urge Pelosi to oppose Iraq spending bill

Times Staff Writer

Chanting antiwar slogans and holding up newspaper photos of dead soldiers, members of the activist group Code Pink protested outside the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday, urging the San Francisco Democrat to oppose legislation that would provide an additional $124 billion to fund the Iraq war.

About 15 protesters -- wearing foam Statue of Liberty crowns and pink scarves, ties or shoes -- were met by a similar number of Capitol Police officers in the hallway of the Cannon House Office Building. After 20 minutes, four were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct because they were “loud and boisterous,” according to a police statement.

The protest, more subdued, then continued outside Pelosi’s office for an additional 25 minutes. The House vote on the legislation, which also would require President Bush to begin withdrawal of U.S. forces by next March, is scheduled for today.

“We want a strong leader to lead us out of the war quickly,” said Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin. Pelosi “needs to be bold and represent her constituents in San Francisco, who voted overwhelming against the war.

“Instead, she has been playing party politics,” said Benjamin, who held a sign that read “Nancy, this war is yours.”


Protester Howard Frick, 62, a Vietnam veteran, said: “This will become another Vietnam. Millions of soldiers are being killed and thousands of Iraqis are being murdered. This is the escalation of the war.”

Code Pink and other antiwar organizations are engaged in what they call the Occupation Project, an eight-week campaign of civil disobedience in which they attend hearings on Capitol Hill and go to congressional offices across the country, reading names of deceased soldiers and chanting “Stop funding the war.”

On March 11, the group set up “Camp Pelosi” outside the speaker’s San Francisco home. Members have remained there since; they also held a rally March 15 outside Pelosi’s apartment building in Washington.

“If we can’t get into your office, we are going into your home,” Code Pink spokeswoman Dana Balicki said. “Pelosi’s plan isn’t good enough. It shouldn’t be a compromise, and we should not play party politics.”

Code Pink members met with Pelosi’s staff this week. They said they did not receive a response when they asked how she planned to vote on the supplemental funding.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Thursday that the House speaker “respects their rights to express their views on the disastrous war in Iraq.”