The Protesters Are Back

Not that they ever officially left, but Politics Daily's Shahzad Chaudhary reports an uptick in anti-war protest activity as President Obama weighs his options in Afghanistan, including more arrests at the Capitol this year than last:

With waning public approval of the Afghanistan war, however, antiwar groups have noticed an increase in support. "We've had a lot of decentralized action in October," said Gael Murphy, co-founder of Code Pink.

Antiwar actions such as the committee hearing protest, in which Blome and Hubert participated in earlier this month, have slowly started to reemerge. So far this year there have been eight official "disruption of Congress" arrests, compared with only four in all of 2008, according to Capitol Hill Police. These types of protests are likely to increase, said Murphy.

Code Pink has been around since 2002, regularly disrupting activities on Capitol Hill while decked out in full pink regalia, known for pulling theatrical pranks.

It was founded by, and continues to be led by, a handful of early-middle-aged women who gave up their lives to come live in a communal house in Washington, DC, to dedicate themselves to protesting the war in Iraq at every opportunity.

While Chaudhary reports that their activity dropped off after Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, they were quite active during the next year, turning immediately on the Democrats who suddenly controlled the purse strings for the Iraq war effort. They dedicated themselves to holding Democrats responsible for the war--"you're in power now, it's up to you to make it stop," basically, was how they put it--and some of their more sensationalistic protests have happened since the Democrats took power.

In March of 2007, four Code Pink members were arrested for staging a takeover of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's congressional office. They were there trying to tape a game of "Pin the War on the Donkey" to the wall in the hallway, and planned to play it as fellow protesters infiltrated the office (knowing that the Capitol Police would arrest them as they did so).

I was standing in the hall at the time (I'd heard this was going to take place), and I noticed that several of the protesters started crying, on cue, as the protest began.

I asked one of the criers, a 24-year-old named Rae Abileah who still serves as Code Pink's local groups coordinator--much younger than the group's leaders and probably the youngest one outside Pelosi's office that day--what the crying was all about. She told me she was crying out of "outrage that this is all we can get from the Democrats."

Then there was the blood-on-the-hands Condoleeza Rice incident in October 2007. As then-Secretary of State Rice began to take her seat at the witness table before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in 2007, one of Code Pink's leaders walked up to her and shoved fake-blood-stained hands in her face, shouting, "The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands, Condoleeeza!"

The late Tom Lantos, the committee's courtly, mild-mannered Democratic chairman--a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary--stepped between Rice and the protester, waving his arms frantically for police to get her out. "Out!" he shouted, as she was led away.

None of these antics have endeared Code Pink to Democrats, who are as irked as anyone else when protesters disrupt their hearings--especially since they've become the object of Code Pink's scorn.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party rode anti-war sentiment to power in 2006, and when anti-war protesters began pressuring Democrats to strip funding for the war entirely--something President Bush had vowed to veto through several House votes on a defense appropriations bill in 2007--it was bad publicity.

Code Pink became a liability for the Democratic Party. Could Dems live up to the wishes of their base? became a question surrounding the new congressional majority.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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