Sit-In at Pelosi's - NO $130 BILLION more for war!
Yet CodePINKers and allies from World Can’t Wait, Vets for Peace and others showed up around noon in front of Pelosi’s to express our deep concern and outrage over the latest $130 BILLION dollars Congress was getting ready to vote on today – a bill that Nancy Pelosi has allowed to come onto the floor, a bill that we later find out Nancy Pelosi did not vote on, one way or the other. (which of course means a de facto yes with the majority).
When 4 of us arrive from the East Bay, two others are waiting. As we stand strategizing in a small circle on the spacious sidewalk in front of the building, 2 WCW folks approach unfurling a huge banner in front of the barriers on the sidewalk. I forget the exact words but the message is: we have plenty of money for war and bailouts of the rich, yet little if any for health care, education, shelter.
While the 6 of us are talking, a security officer – perhaps private security with a brazen tattoo behind his right ear just visible over his uniform collar – informs us we were not allowed to stand on federal property as we do not have a ‘permit’.
We of course attempt to hide our incredulousness and distain yet can barely help but scoff at the notion we, U.S. residents, do not have the right to stand in front of our own Federal Building let alone that we do not have a ‘permit’. What the hell does he think the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights “permit” us to do?
Dan, Pelosi’s chief of staff, happens to walk by us with a sandwich and coffee on his way into the building. As we call out and approach him, recognition quickly inspires his tongue to inform us he is too busy to see us today. “Make an appointment” he says to our groans and protests.
We tell him this is an emergency. He knows what vote we are there about. He insists we will NEVER get to see him today. We insist we will, if only for 5 minutes!~!
Soon other CodePINKers began to arrive until our numbers swell to about 12. As we are deciding it is time to go into the building, to see Dan, to Pelosi’s to find out what she intends to do about this horrific vote, we get the word the vote went down: 395 yeses to 34 no’s. So about 6 did not vote.
We are ill and outraged. Now we’re going in to find out is Pelosi a yes or no? And to fiercely express our rage and our expectations of Pelosi.
We enter the building as the same security officer tells us we are not allowed to come in. We ignore him, put our things on the conveyor belt, hand another officer our I.D.’s and enter the security gate unhampered. He is able to ‘legally’ stop one of us, as her license has expired.
And he (empty) threatens once again that we will all be arrested if we attempt to go into Pelosi’s office.
Several SF CodePINKers arrive outside. Two of us already inside proceed to Pelosi’s office while the rest of us inside wait for those newcomers outside to roll up their banners and come thru the gate.
They never appear. First this same security guard tells them they are not allowed to enter the building with banners. (And just where the hell do you think that is written? He tells us to check Article 41, pointing to a sign, as he is unwilling or perhaps unable to quote it). FYI Article 41 forbids the bringing explosives and weapons into the building. We see no mention of a banner…
Two of us already inside the building have banners on us. The women attempting to enter the building decide to hand off their banners to those protesting outside and begin to re-enter.
This security officer then informs them he is not allowing “CodePINK” to enter the building! We hit the roof, of course, placing calls to Osha and the ACLU, while demanding to speak with a supervisor. The officer informs us he has already called in ICE, Homeland Security – his boss.
Security cannot legally detain anyone on the grounds of what security suspects they might do, not even on the grounds of what they did in the past!
Homeland Security arrives and after assessing the situation, quickly allows everyone to come into the building. We speak with the head fellow re:the unconscionable and unacceptable if not illegal behavior indicating a huge lack of training of his staff. We assure him we do not want to have to put our energy into suing for our rights, his staff should already be trained to protect our rights, not attempt to squelch and intimidate us.
We shake off the rest of our police tail and head onto the elevators. We mistakenly head to the 8th floor, instead of the 2nd. We regroup there on benches by the stairwell, bringing the newcomers up to speed with our former plans, reassessing our goals, and trying to figure out exactly where Pelosi’s new office is. Security is thundering down the stairs looking for us (they probably went to the correct floor!!!) just as we get ready to go.
They must inform us we will never today meet with Pelosi’s staff. Pelosi’s staff does not want to talk with us, they will turn us away – according to the police. Threat of arrest hovers behind their words.
We ask the police if they know what is happening today. We are able to inform them about this horrific vote. They appear a tad bit softer.
We reassure the police they don’t have to be Pelosi staff messengers – we, and staff, are able and experienced at talking with each other. The police continue their attempts to get us to leave the building, call the office and set up an appointment.
We figure out where her office is and head there – with our police escort, at least 3 officers and the figure head of the building. Two other officers are already there waiting as we arrive.
We speak with Nikki, the receptionist, letting her know how distraught we are, asking her how Pelosi voted, and indicating we are here to speak with Dan. She tells us, after some negotiating, he is NOT available and will not be for the WHOLE DAY. We let her know we will wait. Patiently.
She tells us it will never happen.
We all sit down and begin writing on the feedback forms. After about 10 minutes, Nikki tells us we have an appointment with Dan at 2:00pm!!!
We now have time to meet with the head of security. He tells us he understands what we are all about. We challenge him to explain. He pauses and then says with a slight question in his voice, we want to bring our troops home. We say yes and more, we want to END WAR NOW.
He says he’s been in Iraq 7 times over the past 8 years. Tears spring to his eyes as he speaks of the loss of buddies and countless unknown deaths. We extend out deepest compassion and sorrow for his losses and inform him THIS is why we are here, to prevent this carnage and violence in everyone’s lives, including his. He gives us a hug and then turns away.
We leave for lunch and return at 2, with a 2 person ICE escort again. Dan appears, the police disappear at our insistence and we get our 5 minutes.
Dan confirms that the next step for this $130 BILLION is a Senate vote. He attempts to tell us this is NOT for the surge. We get to tell him we understand it IS going to be used as such to fund the 30,000+ troop surge to Afghanistan. We tell him Obama will then ask for additional funds in February or so to ‘protect’ those soldiers already there – the Bush administration propaganda technique that worked so well in previous years.
He claims he hasn’t heard of such a thing – but now he has!!!
Then Dan drops his announcement: Nancy Pelosi has issued a statement today saying she will no longer pressure the caucus to fund wars they do not believe in or support. That Bush ah rather Obama will have to do his own lobbying for unpopular, unwanted wars!
We are so stunned and deeply pleased (we have low expectations after 8 years of Pelosi’s politicking) we forget to ask for a copy of this statement and Dan doesn’t offer us one.
We leave, ready to spread the word and begin our plans to hold Pelosi to her word: i.e. make sure her ACTIONS uphold those words! We have to caucus in the women’s bathroom because our police escort has materialized.