At the height of the Iraq War, Code Pink: Women for Peace, had an e-mail list that numbered anywhere from 350 to 500 requests for information. This was after Medea Benjamin spoke at the Chumash Auditorium at Cal Poly and told the audience about the horrors of this invasion, complete with photos supplied by the Red Cross. The newspaper and TV media were not supplying our country with the actual account of what was really happening in Iraq. The battle in Fallujah was particularly brutal, with ally forces being accused of using white phosphorus, which was against the Geneva Convention.
I was horrified by what I saw, and that very night I signed up on the e-mail list, with many others, and thus began my commitment to protesting the war and joining Code Pink.
Two local women started SLO’s chapter of Code Pink, with another following shortly thereafter. The first meeting was held at one of the women’s homes with a handful of women present, and then graduated to ECOSLO, the old house on Marsh Street, and then, finally, in its last active days, to the library on Palm Street when we grew too large in numbers.
Although our mission was the serious business of protesting an illegal and immoral war, we decided to give protest some pizzazz.
Following National Code Pink’s signature “hot pink” dress code, we decked ourselves out.
We also dressed in costume, when appropriate, and we dropped big pink-colored slips, that looked liked women’s lingerie, from the top decks of parking structures to “fire” the Bush administration, the responsible ones for the debacle. We did flash-mobs at Farmers Market on Thursday nights and carried Buddhist prayer flags with soldiers’ names on the flags to wake up people’s seemingly apathetic response toward war and death. Code Pink collaborated with a group from Cuesta College, Blowin’ in the Wind, on the prayer flags. We attended all local government meetings, from council meetings to school board meetings, to raise concerns about the amount of money spent on war instead of on our cities and schools. Right up until the official start of the war, before Code Pink ever existed, more than 1,000 anti-war demonstrators showed up in downtown SLO to march through the streets and say no to war.
We had many supporters and detractors, as well, through all of this.
But Code Pink remained steadfast. We continued to meet and to protest, but as the war dragged on and Obama was elected president, people started to drift away and not show up for events or meetings. There were a few of us, maybe 10 or so, who hung in there.
We called ourselves the “core.” After more time passed, people would ask us, “Whatever happened to Code Pink?” or “What’s Code Pink doing these days?” We had to say, well, no one showed up anymore to support the effort ... or Obama will end the war (which he is trying to do) ... or we got “burned out” (which we did). Burn-out is a common happening to activists in all spheres.
There is an article in the March issue of the literary magazine The Sun, a piece by Krishnamurti, the peace-prize winning Indian philosopher, who states that “what causes war is the desire for power, position, prestige, money; also the disease called nationalism, the worship of a flag; the disease of organized religion, the worship of dogmas. All these are the causes of war.” (from The First And Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti, published by Harper-Collins, 1954).
Unless we collectively change how we see war, it will continue to rob us of the peace we so desire.
So, this is what happened to Code Pink, SLO chapter. We are on hiatus, but could be called back into action at a moment’s notice!
National Code Pink, still active, with Medea at the helm, is currently working on peaceful solutions in the Middle East. A small core of National Code Pink members travel abroad frequently with the message of peace. They have demonstrated at AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conferences and have recently been engaged in anti-drone protests, too.
With special thanks to Dawn, Dian, Jan, Alma, Liz, Joan, Viv, Lynne, Shelley, and Maureen for hanging in there, fighting the good fight that was worth fighting for—those courageous women of Code Pink—and all the others who came to support and unite with us.
We took a lot of flak, but we survived, thrived, and still value one another for our convictions and strength. Without conviction, we cannot make a difference, and we tried to do that.
Victoria Grostick joined the local Code Pink chapter in 2004. Send comments to the executive editor at email@example.com.
-- Victoria Grostick - San Luis Obispo