BRINGING THE WAR TO HILLARY
Code Pink and Civil Resisters Team up to Confront Hillary Clinton About Her
Stand on the Iraq War-National Mainstream Media Declares "Senator Clinton
Jeered By Anti-War Protesters" at Democratic Fundraiser
January 27, 2006 Portland, OR-Grassroots activists presented a united,
determined front against Hillary Clinton's support for the Iraq War at a
Democratic Party fundraiser for her 2006 Senate campaign. Code Pink chapters
from Portland and Eugene teamed up with the Eugene Civil Resisters to upstage
and disrupt her speech to the Party faithful in the ballroom of the Portland
Hilton Executive Tower, and grabbed the headlines by putting her on the spot
about her support for funding the war.
Our intention was to present the strongest possible message against funding
the brutal and immoral war in Iraq to Hillary and the mainstream media in a
peaceful and humorous way that would convey the message in the most effective
Five activists from Portland and six from Eugene purchased $50 tickets for the
political pep rally that was billed as support for her Senate re-election, and
was to include appearances by Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senator Ron Wyden, and
Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Darlene Hooley, David Wu, and Peter Defazio,
with 1000 tickets available for the standing only affair.
A press release was sent out earlier in the week that Code Pink would be at
the event to protest the war, and press packets were prepared and distributed
to the media at the event describing our reasons for protesting the war,
calling for an immediate halt to funding the war, and containing a graphic
photo of an Iraqi or American casualty of the war. Legal support was arranged
with a National Lawyers Guild attorney in Portland in case we were arrested,
and support team members were stationed outside the Hilton with a cell phone
and spare keys for the vehicles. In the spirit of previous Code Pink actions,
the protesters planned a "call-and-response" chant across the ballroom to draw
attention to Clinton's immoral stance supporting the illegal invasion and
occupation of Iraq. A few minutes into her speech, I was to give a signal to
our people that the action would begin, at which time the Code Pink members
would take off their outer layer of clothing to reveal their pink slips,
giving the message that they were "giving Hillary the pink slip," meaning that
we were firing her. They would also hold up anti-war banners they had hidden
in their clothes. A minute later we were to start the call-and-response which
went like this: "CUT OFF THE FUNDING BRING THE TROOPS HOME WANT WOMEN'S
VOTES? STOP KILLING CHILDREN " We rehearsed the chant many times in the van
on the way up to Portland, honing our articulation and unity to get maximum
clarity of the message, and we did vocal warmups to get our voices prepared
for maximum volume and effectiveness. We were prepared to keep up the chant
until security removed us from the ballroom, and we agreed that we would leave
when asked to, and not be arrested if at all possible.
Upon arriving at the Hilton, there were protesters outside, many of them from
Veterans For Peace and Military Families Speak Out, who had banners and drums
to call attention to their protest. They were joined by some members of Code
Pink who remained outside during the event. After making last minute
adjustments to our plan outside with the Portland folks, we checked in and
went into the ballroom. By the official start time of 8pm, there were perhaps
5-600 people in the ballroom, a far cry short of capacity.
Then the waiting began. Nothing happened until 9:15. We were appalled that
the Party would leave the rank-and-file supporters who had paid $50 waiting
for an hour and fifteen minutes, with no explanation or apology whatsoever,
but that is exactly what they did. We heard that the "VIP reception" before
the main event had gone over the expected time, so apparently the Democratic
leadership thought that having their meeting for VIP's was more important than
keeping their commitment to the rank-and-file. I felt it was quite arrogant
and disgusting behavior.
Finally, the program started. After a brief introduction from the Oregon
Democratic Party master of ceremonies, Earl Blumenauer spoke for fifteen
minutes, mostly exhorting the crowd to believe that the Democrats would take
back the House and Senate in November. Then Kulongoski spoke for less than
ten minutes on the same theme, and finally Hillary stepped up. The crowd
reaction was somewhat enthusiastic, though people in the middle of the crowd
were merely clapping politely, and people in the back weren't even doing
that. A pretty lukewarm reception for the Party hopeful for president in
2008, I'd say. The volume on the microphone was turned up as Hillary started
Our people took up their positions as our adrenaline started flowing. Four
minutes into Hillary's speech, I waved a pink press packet over my head to
signal the start of the action. The women revealed their pink slips. A
minute layer, I shouted, "What about the war, Hillary?" Immediately our side
chanted the call, "Cut off the funding " We waited for the response from the
other side, but nothing happened. I looked at the other folks with me from
Eugene, and we all looked like we did not know what to do. I immediately went
into the chant, taking up both call and response: "Cut off the funding Bring
the troops home " Our side joined in. The crowd turned and stared at us,
ignoring Hillary as she went on with her speech, completely unfazed. The
media all shifted their cameras onto us as well. Hotel security quickly came
and confronted me first-a very large heavyset man told me to go with him,
saying I was being asked to leave. I slowly went with him to the rear exits,
making sure I walked in front of the media on the way out. I could hear
chants from both sides of the room now, and knew that the Portland contingent
had jumped into the fray.
Outside the ballroom in the lobby, I engaged the security worker in
discussion, explaining that we had to be able to get our coats from the coat
check area, and that I would not allow myself to get separated from the people
in my group. He kept trying to direct me to leave the building immediately.
I stalled. Finally, we saw the back doors of the ballroom open, as our Eugene
contingent in their pink slips were backing out of the room, still chanting,
being pushed backwards by security out the door. I felt an incredible surge
of pride and laughter and tears of joy as I watched these brave women giving
their all, speaking Truth to Power right up to the last minute.
At that point we fully cooperated with security and got our coats and left the
building, not knowing the fate of our Portland sisters. We badly wanted to
know what was happening to them, but trusted they would stand their ground and
do the job.
Wow, did they ever. When we finally got to talk to them on the phone, we
heard the story. Because Hillary's microphone had been turned up so loud,
they did not hear our initial call, so they did not respond right away. But
when they saw the commotion on our side of the room, they started the chant.
Suddenly, an emotionally disturbed man holding a young child in one arm came
over to them, screaming he was going to kill them, and physically assaulted
them, hitting them with his fist. The Portland women were stunned; one got a
bruise, another a scratch, but there were no serious injuries. The man ripped
away some of their banners. Then the crowd around the group stepped in and
surrounded the Code Pinkers to protect them from this deranged man.
Curiously, security did nothing-they did not remove the Code Pinkers or the
The Code Pinkers regrouped and started up the chanting again, keeping it up
for a few minutes as some people near them told them to shut up. They took a
break, then started again. This pattern went on a number of times, until
Hillary finally pointed at them and said, "If you people will let me speak,
I'll address that issue." When she didn't go right into talking about the
war, the Portland Code Pinkers decided to simply leave on their own. Sometime
after they left, Hillary gave the Party line about how the Dems were duped
into the war, but now that the troops were over there we had to "support"
them, and "hope for the best." That is literally what she said Not even
something about a timetable for withdrawal.
Outside the Hilton we met a middle aged couple from Human Rights Watch who
were thrown out after we were, for protesting Hillary's support of the Israeli
occupation of Palestine and building of THE WALL along the border of the
Palestinian Territories. Our Eugene contingent then regrouped at a
restaurant down the street, and we kept calling on the cell phone to try and
reach Cristy to find out what happened to our Portland sisters. Finally, we
reached them, and found out they had been sitting at the bar in the Hilton
watching the news coverage of us getting taken out of the ballroom on the TV.
We were ecstatic. We had done it again The anti-war message was there in
the mainstream media for all to see, Hillary Clinton on the defensive for her
indefensible, immoral stance. The reports started coming in-top story on KGW-
TV(NBC Portland affiliate), KATU-TV (ABC affiliate), KPTV (Fox affiliate),
radio coverage in Eugene and Bend. The next day saw an Associated Press
article in the Eugene Register Guard, with the headline, "Senator Clinton
Jeered By Anti-War Protesters."
The headline of Portland's Sunday Oregonian article of January 28 described
Clinton "drawing boos," and the article stated "As many as a dozen
demonstrators managed to get into the ballroom and repeatedly interrupt her
speech,with shouts of, 'Hillary Supports the War!' and 'Stop the
War!' ...security guards repeatedly hustled out protesters who popped up in
various parts of the ballroom."
We had succeeded. The grassroots cannot possibly afford to buy space in the
mainstream media, but for $300 in tickets, a little time and some guts on our
part, we had hijacked the media coverage of the event, drowning out Hillary's
message. If we paid for that kind of airtime in the mainstream media, it
would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it was an incredible
bargain for the movement.
We had struggled successfully through the scramble of preparing for an action
100 miles from home, getting there, dealing with our fears and anxieties, and
gave powerful voice to our righteous indignation about our government's
terrorist actions in Iraq. We felt satisfied that we had given it our very
best shot under trying and unpredictable circumstances and had come away
victorious. We were empowered.
As for assessing our action for strengths and weaknesses, we could have been a
little better prepared in terms of knowing the layout of the event, preparing
banners and practicing with them, and anticipating what to do in case there
was a communication breakdown in the ballroom at a critical time. However, we
reacted quickly and correctly, we acted with boldness and determination, we
pushed the envelope as far as we could in the moment, we formed a successful
coalition between groups with similar goals and tactics, and we succeeded
fabulously at injecting our message into the mainstream media and the minds of
the state Democratic Party leadership.
I wish to express deep gratitude to the powerful sisters who pulled this
action together and executed it with great courage and creativity: Pam,
Beverly, Willow, Aria, Karla, Doe, Jodi; Cristy, Linda, and the rest of the
Portland Code Pinkers whose names I can't recall; our Civil Resistance members
who contributed time, ideas, energy and money to make the action possible; and
our many, many supporters who have contributed material and moral support for
actions that require people to go outside their comfort zone. "It takes a
village," as Hillary would say.....
"The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be
ours...We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every
creative method of protest possible."
-Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967
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