Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And MORE of Liz in Arundhati Roy's documentation of CP in DC

13 April 2007: You Snooze, You Lose

I am often nostalgic for my childhood sleeping habits, which were as close to nonexistent as I could manage in the face of stern parental supervision. How I could never sleep and never run out of energy continues to puzzle me to this day, when almost nothing beats a good night's sleep—given the choice between sleep and sex, I'd have to have a written guarantee of the quality of the latter.

Today, however, I regret my passion for the pillow. After the mental, psychological and emotional stress—rewarding, but also taxing—of yesterday's assault on the senate, followed by our up-late debrief and wind down, I was ready for a big sleep. When Melissa told Desiree and Liz about the 4th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (the Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave NW) Friday morning—with Pres Dubya as the keynote speaker—my response was less than enthusiastic.

"What time?" I asked skeptically.

"8 am," grinned Liz, who never sleeps.

"Er, that's probably a 'no'," I shuddered.

So when I waked to the elephants tromping above and below, and glanced at my watch—7:30 am—I rolled over and buried my head in the pillow, sighing in the comfort of the bed and with relief to hear the front door bang shut, leaving behind … blessed silence.

An hour later, however, I could no longer sleep. The house was quiet, the bed warm, and I comfortable and unaccountably content. It occurred to me that perhaps my depression was lifting for the first time in years, and that's why I didn't feel the need to hide from the world as long as possible. At this cheery thought, I rose and went downstairs for coffee (thoughtfully left hot and ready by Desiree) and had just enough time to settle into a chair and boot up my computer before a crash bang at the door and the entrance of a triumphant Desiree and Liz.

"I got in!" Desiree was gleeful. "I called him war criminal!"

Liz carried huge 4x3 blow ups of photos of Iraqi war victims, framed in pink, with "Honk for Peace" on the back. She grinned. "Excellent feedback on the street," she assured me.

I was bummed to have missed it, especially after the stories they told. Liz, totally Pinked Out, stayed outside to confront foot and car traffic; Desiree actually got into the ballroom. Here are their stories as told to (and envied by) me.

Both (together or interrupting each other): We got up at about 5:45 [this is after going to bed at 2—what kind of adrenaline do these women have?]. Liz dressed in the Pink Police Uniform, consisting of a pink button down with "Pink Police" in black letters on the back, over a pink T-shirt with "Impeach Bush" on the front; Des wore a navy business suit. We took the Metro to Dupont Circle and walked to the front of the Hilton, where we split up, Liz outside with Desiree attempting to infiltrate the event.

Liz: Where I stood on the sidewalk, the police came right up to me and said "You can't be here, please go across the street."

I told them, "I always stand here, but out of respect for you I will cross the street." I stood in the median with "Honk for Peace" and these blown up photos of Iraqi victims of war, bloody, holding dead children—very powerful. I set up the pics around a light pole so they were visible from every angle.

I was there for about 45 minutes. People walked past with coffee on way to and from work. They were locals and visitors—the feedback was excellent, people came over to thank me. Some of them asked, "What's going on, who's there?" I answered, "The Commander in Thief and liar is in there." A few people took pictures, one tourist lady from Texas. Police watched closely but didn't harass me.

I shouted, "Support our troops—bring them home" and "Stop funding for war." Being in the median was actually better as more people could see me.

I got a lot of honks—from cabs, bus drivers, people in Mercedes. A few "one fingered salutes". I'm sure the president drove right by me …

Des came out after some time and we joined forces. It was just the two of us; that's all it takes for a successful action. One person can make a huge difference

Desiree: We carried these big signs, hiked up to the Hilton, then split when we got there—Liz was obviously Code Pink and I wasn't.

I walked through the lobby determined to get in—it was the same location as AFL-CIO conference a couple of weeks ago that we tried to get into, so I was familiar with the layout. I checked the electronic marquis to see where breakfast was, then went around corner, down the stairs, and saw the registration table.

There was no one around, so I set the posters down and went to registration desk. The lady couldn't find my registration. I told her I had registered online with Christine Grabosky. She asked for my receipt. I said, "Oh, there's a cost?" She said yes, $60, and offered to sell me a ticket right there. I thought for about 2 seconds, then said OK, and pulled out debit card.

I proceeded down hall, where I called Liz to come get the posters— we passed covertly and I whispered out of corner of mouth, "They're behind the bench"

At the entrance to the big ballroom were 12 Capitol Police with wands and metal detectors. I thought Oh shit, I've got all this Pink stuff in my bag. They opened it up and found all the Code Pink buttons and pink police uniforms. One officer looked down and stifled a smile. "What have you got planned today?" he asked in a conspiratorial tone.

"Oh," I said, feigning surprise, "I'm not going to use that."

He shook his head regretfully. "Sorry, you can't bring that stuff in here," he told me—so I called Liz to come pick up that bag too. By the time I got back, they were disassembling the detectors and stuff. I went downstairs to big ballroom with tables and about 1000 people. I was the only person at Table 12, 2 tables away from Press.

After five minutes, the woman who sold me ticket—probably alerted by the police—came over and asked me to leave. "I made a mistake," she said, "I shouldn't have sold you that ticket."

"Well, I paid my $60 and I have every right to be here. I'm a Catholic and I'm not leaving." About 7 different people came to encourage me to leave. I told them, "I purchased a ticket and I'm going to stand on the table and scream discrimination." We'd just finished Pledge of Allegiance and it was quiet. I was speaking a little louder than normal, and everyone started looking at me, including the media. They left me alone, but a woman with an earpiece came and sat at the table with me.

I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "You know, if you didn't have war criminals as your invited guests, you wouldn't have these problems."

Bush started speaking—he made some joke about it being the Friday after Lent which meant that Catholics could eat their bacon with a clear conscience. I didn't see any bacon—on my table there was nothing but muffins and some juice. Bush said he was sorry that Laura wasn't there because she represents his family better than he does. His remarks were brief, only about 10 mins, and it wasn't until he was wrapping up that I realized it was almost over.

I pulled out my copy of the constitution and the press started taking pictures of me. I stood up and shouted "War criminal" and walked in front of the press, saying what a shame to have a war criminal speaking. "Thou shalt not kill."

Security came to escort me out, but I walked faster than they did—nobody did anything to me—and I merged with press traffic who were speeding out to be ready for Bush's exit. The line led past a line of black SUVs with their windows down and what looked like machine guns pointing at me—I asked them if they were proud to serve a war criminal.

I dashed out, grabbed a poster from Liz and ran back to where a pair of nuns were coming out. I held up the photo of a mother weeping into her veil, holding her bloody child. "Sisters, sisters, how could you have breakfast with a war criminal?" I shouted. I was only four feet in front of them and saw their shocked, "deer in the headlights" look. In retrospect, I think I scared them and feel a little bit bad.

There was a family coming out of hotel—I showed it to them and said "This is your president's shock and awe." The grandmother took pictures, then said, "You disgust me."

"What's disgusting is this, ma'am," I told her, then went to join Liz.

POSTSCRIPT: Back at the house, Desire went to and had a look at the Security Memo, which included:

· There will be NO physical tickets this year. We will have a master list with names available at the door.
· If you purchased a table and have not submitted your list of table guests – you must inform each of your guests regarding the table number.
· If we do not have your guests [sic] name on our master list they will be allowed entrance ONLY IF they know their table assignment.
· If guests do not know their table assignment and they are not on our master list, they will be denied entrance to the breakfast. All table guest lists must be submitted no later than Wednesday, April 11 at 5:00 pm.
· Due to security concerns related to a Presidential event, and with the possibility of chilly weather, we offer the following very important instructions:
· • Please arrive by 6:00 am to allow ample time to get through security.
· • Please DO NOT bring any bags, backpacks, or packages to the event. Cameras and small purses are permitted.
· • You MUST bring Government issued photo identification.
· • Business or dressy attire is required. Those not properly attired will not be granted admittance and a full refund will be provided.

Said Des: If I had read this the night before, I probably never would've tried to get in. It all goes to show that spontaneity and intuition take you a long way at chipping away at the war machine—it's not as difficult to get to them as you might think.

"We be many and they be few." —Arundhati Roy

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