am, in general, a law-abiding citizen. I pay my taxes. I use my turn
signals. I show respect for law enforcement officers, too much
sometimes, according to Medea Benjamin. I am a realistic person and an
idealistic soul. The combination makes for an interesting perspective
while working on the Hill.
I have been in many, many congressional
hearings in the past several months. And yes, I have acted up, spoken
up, been moved to stand up in protest, been removed and threatened
with arrest. I have confronted legislators in hallways, following
press conferences, in their offices, at events and on the streets of
D.C. I have lobbied, monitored, and marched into the teeth of
opposition. It is true, I have pushed the envelope and been pushed
across the line and onto the floors of the House office buildings.
That must be expected when one is working with likes of
revolutionaries Medea Benjamin and Gael Murphy. I have not, however,
been arrested . . . before Friday, March 23.
Civil Disobedience has been something I have supported, and advocated.
It is a valuable tool for change in our society, a vital part of
Democracy. But I have made a point in many conversations to stress
that it would take a very clear issue to motivate me to join the ranks
of the Activists who so willingly lay their bodies, records and
pocketbooks on the line to emphasize a point to their government. Last
week, I proudly, but with an overwhelming sadness, added my name to
the list of those whose life stories include defying rules and laws to
shed light on injustice and express dissent.
I spent early Friday morning on the sidewalk between the House office
buildings and the Capitol lobbying Members going to and from the
Democratic Caucus meeting, stressing that if they buy this war, by
funding it, they will own it and will be held responsible for the
outcome. I won’t say the effort was wasted, because the experience
hardened my resolve. When Members who greeted me on their way to the
Caucus meeting wouldn’t look me in the eye upon their return, I
understood that our battle for de-funding was facing defeat at the
hands of the Democratic leadership.
The reality of the betrayal was stark, but not startling. MoveOn had
ensured that the staunch attitude of “No more money for War” from the
Peace Movement contingent was muddled with an invalid poll and
millions of dollars applied to pushing Dems to vote for the
Supplemental and it’s millions for programs unrelated to ending the
war. The tears started to flow freely when a Democrat finally looked
at me, standing on the sidewalk with a poster of an American Solider
carrying a dead Iraqi child, and said, “There’s nothing we can do
about it. They are going to get their votes. Thank you for trying.
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 for Democrats of principal to 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 Chamber.
I entered the Capitol building with Marine Mom Tina Richards, Military
Families Speak Out co-founder Nancy Lessin, and two other members of
MFSO. I was wearing black, clearly marked with Code Pink -- Women for
Peace, with stage blood on my hands and face. We waited in line,
passed through security, waited inside the Capitol and were finally
admitted to the House Gallery. Tina and I were seated in the front
row, along the rail, directly behind the Democrats.
As Speaker Pelosi addressed Congress Tina produced a photo of her Son,
Cloy, bravely held it in front of her face 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 funded 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
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!” as they carried
me from the Gallery. 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 arrested, searched,
cuffed and taken away by police quite efficiently and without
Looking back, 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 dollars. The true cost will be paid in
blood and tears. They did not, however, get it quietly, floating their
political maneuvering under the radar. Tighe and I made sure they and
everyone in the Gallery and maybe those watching at home on C-Span
realized that there are those in the public that disagree, that there
are Americans that don’t believe that 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 even in the House Chambers, and
now in the Senate, until they act responsibly to Bring our Troops Home
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. She has been a full-time
Peace Activist for two years.