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Washington turns pink

Local activists lobby for peace in the nation's capital

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In the final days of January, 11 members of SLO Code Pink packed up all of their pink accoutrements and headed to Washington, D.C. to join throngs of other peace activists as they marched in protest against the war.

PINK IS A CROWD :  Members of SLO Code Pink recently traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with various politicians and aides as they lobbied for peace. Here, a crowd surrounded Sen. Barbara Boxers aide, who is in a brown suit somewhere in the mass. - PHOTO BY MEG EVANS
  • PHOTO BY MEG EVANS
  • PINK IS A CROWD : Members of SLO Code Pink recently traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with various politicians and aides as they lobbied for peace. Here, a crowd surrounded Sen. Barbara Boxers aide, who is in a brown suit somewhere in the mass.

# For more than two years, the local chapter of the women-initiated grassroots peace organization has maintained a colorful presence around town. Members regularly carry peace flags at the SLO Farmers' Market, gather in Mission Plaza to read the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, dance on street corners, and participate in marches, vigils, and parades often decked out in pink wigs, boas, and other attention-grabbing garb. Still, their message is always a solemn one: Bring the troops home and end the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

There was no mistaking the SLO group's affiliation as they marched through the streets of the nation's capital wearing pink jester hats, boas, and scarves, waving pink signs that read "Escalation is a fool's errand" and "Augmentation is for boobs." Meg Evans, creator of the jester hats, said that Code Pink regularly uses humor to get attention.

"We try to come up with silly little things that disarm people enough that maybe they'll get the message," she said. "We're not going to change their minds right there, but maybe we'll plant a seed."

Dawn Ortiz Legg, another member of SLO Code Pink, said that the group's irreverent approach is a deliberate attempt to diffuse the cold image of anti-war activists.

"We want people to remember us as their neighbors, co-workers, and friends who love their country, care about their families, and take our role as citizens strongly, but with humor," she said.

Code Pink members reined in their merrymaking and donned more subdued garments for a day spent lobbying congressional representatives.

"Our goal was to address the Democratic-led Congress," Legg said. "We wanted to make sure those Democrats in Congress got the message loud and clear that American citizens are no longer going to wait around for something to happen. We want to see something real from them. The most real thing is de-fund the war."

Members of SLO Code Pink met with Central Coast representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and an aide to Lois Capps (D-Calif.) to encourage them to support H.R. 508, the Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007. The bill calls for all U.S. troops in Iraq to be brought home within six months, and it provides a framework for restoring stability in Iraq. They also met with aides to California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to encourage them to support similar legislation in the Senate.

Code Pink is also outspoken in its support for Iraq veterans. Legg said that when they met with aides to Feinstein and Boxer, they were accompanied by a therapist who shared emotionally impacting stories about a number of her patients who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Legg, the California Nurses Association reported that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a backlog of 400,000 cases of vets in need of treatment for the disorder.

"An increase in veterans' benefits is what supporting the troops should really mean," Legg said.

Dian Sousa, co-founder of SLO Code Pink, said that one of the most memorable moments of the trip was listening to an impromptu speech given by a vet who had lost a leg in Iraq. She said he was at a Code Pink rally, shaking with anger and bitterness as one speaker after another called for an end to the war. Sousa said he angrily yelled out, "You don't know what you're talking about! I fought for you!"

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, now a full-time antiwar activist, invited the young vet to talk.

"That did wonders to alleviate a lot of his anger," Sousa said. "People clapped for him. There was no booing. I thought that was beautiful."

Members of SLO Code Pink said their goal now is to do community outreach.

"Everybody that feels we're not going in the right direction needs to do something," Evans said. "Letters and e-mails to the newspaper and phone calls and faxes to representatives are just as important as marches, vigils, and banner drops. They just need to do something."

INFOBOX: Red and white make

SLO Code Pink meets the second Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at ECOSLO, on the corner of Nipomo and Marsh in San Luis Obispo. For more information, visit www.slocodepink.org

Freelancer Shawna Galassi is a member of Code Pink and attended the Washington trip. Send comments to her through the editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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