Anti-war activists occupy Congressional offices

Mike Ferner writes for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Feb. 6:

From Alaska to Washington, D.C. yesterday, peace activists escalated their tactics and occupied Congressional offices, demanding elected officials vote against George Bush’s request of $93,000,000,000 to extend the war.

The Occupation Project, organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), kicked off at noon, Eastern Time when four people were arrested holding a funeral service in the Chicago office of Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and four more people were arrested in the Chicago office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), reading names of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers.

At the same hour, 10 people sat down and were arrested in the Washington, D.C. office of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), including Garett Reppenhagen, a director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Franciscan priest Jerry Zawada, and Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-director of VCNV. McCain’s office in Phoenix was also occupied.

On the opening day of the six-week project, a total of eight local congressional offices were occupied across the country, including the San Francisco offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and the Portland office of Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). Members of Veterans For Peace, one of the 18 organizations endorsing the campaign, participated in an action at a congressional office in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Dan Pearson, a spokesperson for the Occupation Project, explained the campaign’s goal is to defeat the $93 billion “emergency supplemental” war funding bill that the Bush administration forwarded to Congress yesterday.

Pearson and three others were removed from Obama’s Chicago office yesterday after the office manager told them they could stay until closing time if they stopped reading names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis. Pearson responded that “We didn’t come here to sit down and be quiet. We are responding to an emergency. If an apartment were on fire across the street I would bang on every door and interrupt whatever the neighbors were doing and I wouldn’t feel bad about it.”

Today, organizers are targeting congressional offices in Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, and Seattle. Plans for other occupations are underway in over 20 states as a way to pressure elected officials to “defund” the Iraq war.

The Occupation Project got a boost yesterday when United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the coalition that brought some 300,000 protesters to Washington on January 27, endorsed it and sent an email letter to its 1400 member organizations around the nation, urging their participation.

See our last post on Iraq. See our last post on the anti-war movement. See our article on the fragmentation of the war, Behind the Soldiers of Heaven in our current issue.

  1. Campaign launches in St. Louis
    NEWS ADVISORY CONTACT: Michael T. McPhearson (314) 303 – 8874
    February 5, 2007 Andrew Wimmer (314) 533-0897
    St. Louis Participates in National Campaign of Sustained Nonviolent
    Civil Disobedience to End Iraq War Funding

    What: On February 6, 2007, local social justice advocates will hold a press conference announcing the beginning of the Occupation Project at 11 a.m. outside Russ Carnahan’s office in Brentwood. There will also be a rally held at 4pm outside of the Congressman’s office.

    Who: Speakers will include, Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace (and father of an Iraq War combat soldier), Woody Powell, a Korean War Veteran (Veterans For Peace), and Andrew Wimmer, educator and member of the Center of Theology and Social Analysis.

    The press conference will announce the beginning of the Occupation Project in St. Louis. The Occupation Project is a campaign of civil disobedience beginning at the offices of Representatives and Senators who do not publicly pledge to vote against additional funds for the Iraq war. The campaigns will continue through the end of March.

    Campaigns will take place in at least 15 states, stretching from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon and from Fairbanks, Alaska to Huntsville, Alabama. The campaign is organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Participating organizations include: Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK, Declaration of Peace, and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

    President Bush is requesting $99 billion in supplemental funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He warned however, due to on-going military operations, an addition $145 in supplemental funding could come in 2008. All of this is already in addition to the $661.9 billion dollars that has already been spent on the War in Iraq.

    # # #

    Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, other conflicts and peacetime veterans. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

    Veterans For Peace:
    The Occupation Project: