We have decided to read each line of the Mother's Day Proclamation 3 times with three seconds in between each repeated line. We have 3 women who are our readers who are to keep us in unison and reading the same line.
We are practicing at the lunch table in the middle of a huge cafeteria in the Rayburn building - one of the 4 house of representatives office buildings. The menu is really quite varied & everyone seems pleased with the prices - we're thinking the tax payers are subsidizing meals for people with business at congress.
Everyone around us pays attention as we read the proclamation. No one approaches us to make us stop nor calls security to have us removed. We are pleased & fortified. We debate whether we are ready to read the proclamation in the halls. We decide to go out front of the building (a couple of women cannot find us) and try it again.
As we stand out in front, a couple of capitol police approach & ask us for our permit to demonstrate. Toby is furious & tells them we're u.s. citizens & we have the right to demonstrate. I tell him we are standing against the war in Iraq, we are not blocking the sidewalk & there are less than 25 of us so we do not need a permit. He corrects me - we have to be less than 20. I tell him in any case we do have a permit. He calls in & then comes back and reiterates what we already know: don't block the sidewalk or the street or the doorways. I smile & tell him thanks.
Rayburn has GREAT acoustics, even out in front. Half of us stand on the steps, the other half climb up to the balcony that stretches over the doorways & steps below. The reading is amplified greatly and altho we do not have the numbers of people we would like, the ones who hear us respond favorably.
Soon we are ready to go inside & try the action. It is illegal to demonstrate inside the congressional walls, which means inside this building. We have our cell phones plastered to our heads so we can pretend we are speaking into the phone - and therefore, not demonstrating. I can feel the nervousness under the determination and bravery of these women. Most of the women here have NEVER demonstrated other than marches, and certainly most have not broken rules on purpose.
We go through security once again. We have to take off all our buttons, take our cell phones, keys, change out of our pockets; lay our hot pink umbrellas, backpacks, pocket books on the conveyer belts & stride through the low doses of radiation without making the lights & bell go off. At the end, we have to pick up all our belongs, shoving each back into the proper pocket, reattaching our codepink pins and move nonchalantly up the stairs.
One of our group is detained. We move slowly across the floor, waiting for her to be released & catch up. Some women are talking about doing the action in front of their congressperson’s office; some are wanting to go back to the cafeteria to do it; others want to find a hallway with more people.
Julia catches up finally – she wasn’t detained but instead she was talking with the guard about the make-up of the congress: the number of representatives, senators.
We are all congregated in one area. I walk toward another hallway so we can spread out a little but our readers have begun. I grab my cellphone & begin reading. Our voices sound as lovely & strong as they did outside. Julia Ward Howe’s words “rise then women rise” bounce off the walls. People stop in their tracks, startled.
Marie has cut off from the group also. We continue reading in unison “we women of one nation must feel so tender toward women of other nations that we must not allow our sons to injure their sons.”
A police officer walks towards me & I make sure she sees my cell phone as I concentrate on talking. She keeps walking. The police have arrived in the other hall. Marie & I can no longer hear our comrades speaking. The officer that passed me is motioning for Marie to keep her voice down. Marie smiles sweetly as she continues to read & walk in a circle. I keep walking forward reading in unison with Marie.
The officer disappears around the corner toward the rest of the women. I decide to follow. When I round the corner, the hall is empty of anyone, including pink! At first I fear they’ve been taken somewhere – then I peer down the stairs & across the security I see a flash of hot pink! Marie & I head out.
We regroup, pleased & proud that we got kicked out of Rayburn on our first day. We talk a little about the proclamation, decide to shorten it & try it again. We march back to the Library of Congress where two of our women are watching the rest of our banners & signs that we couldn’t take into the building with us. We protest all along the way & when we get to the Library, we stand out front reading the proclamation & handing out copies to passers-bye.
The number & diversity of the crowd astounds us – from youth groups to military to tourists, they all pass & most take our flyer & thank us profusely for being here.
We head back to Hillary’s House for dinner & the house meeting at 8:00p.m.