CODEPINK Activist Barred from Capitol After Calling Rice “War Criminal”
Friday, November 2nd, 2007http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/11/02/1337206
CODEPINK activist Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz was barred from Capitol Hill after she covered her hands in fake blood and approached Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week at the start of a congressional hearing. Ali-Fairooz said that the blood "of millions of Iraqis" was on the hands of the Bush administration. [includes rush transcript]
We end today's broadcast here in Washington D.C. with Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz. She is the antiwar activist who covered her hands in fake blood and approached Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week at the start of a congressional hearing. A photograph of Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz and Rice appeared in newspapers across the country.
After she approached Rice, Ali-Fairooz screamed that the blood "of millions of Iraqis" was on the hands of the Bush administration. Moments later Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz was arrested. She was charged with disorderly conduct, defacing of government property and assault on a federal officer. She has been banned from the grounds of Capitol Hill and reportedly could face up prison time.
- Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz. She is former children's librarian and schoolteacher from Texas. She quit her job in March to dedicate her life to antiwar activism and to organizing with the group CODEPINK.
- Medea Benjamin. Founder of CODEPINK.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to another issue right now that has been occurring in
DESIREE ANITA ALI-FAIROOZ: The blood of millions of Iraqis are on your hands, Condoleezza! War criminal! War criminal! War criminal!
AMY GOODMAN: Moments later, Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz was arrested. She was charged with disorderly conduct, defacing of government property, assault on a federal officer, has been banned from the grounds of Capitol Hill, will be arraigned in a few months.
Desiree joins us now in the firehouse -- not in the firehouse, we’re in Washington, D.C., but we are also joined by Medea Benjamin, who is one of the co-founders of CODEPINK. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
Desiree, let’s begin with you. Why did you go up to Condoleezza Rice?
DESIREE ANITA ALI-FAIROOZ: Well, attending the congressional hearings related to Iraq is something that we do often here in Washington, D.C., and it’s a matter of habit to approach whoever is testifying to let them know how we feel about the issues, and just so happened it was Condoleezza Rice testifying in that hearing that day. And our intent was to sit in the hearing and hold up masks of Condoleezza Rice with the fake blood on our hands, but as it turned out, I was seated in the second row, much closer than I anticipated, and there was no one seated right in front of me, and I was able to take a few steps forward and tell her what I thought of her and the policies of this administration.
AMY GOODMAN: And what have you been charged with? Was it assaulting a federal officer?
DESIREE ANITA ALI-FAIROOZ: Well, there was a sergeant in the Capitol Police, who had told me that when I was in jail. I have yet to receive a hard copy of that, actually, of my charges. But my lawyer says it’s assault of a police officer -- not Condoleezza Rice, but a police officer there. And the defacing of government property, because some of the sticky material got on the walls when I was being arrested. And the disorderly conduct for being loud in the hearing.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you face? What kind of time?
DESIREE ANITA ALI-FAIROOZ: I believe it’s a maximum of 180 days.
AMY GOODMAN: When will you be arraigned?
DESIREE ANITA ALI-FAIROOZ: Sometime in December.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the bigger issue of CODEPINK. Actually, yesterday President Bush invoked CODEPINK’s name. Let’s hear what he had to say.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Congress needs to put the needs of those who put on the uniform ahead of their desire to spend more money. When it comes to funding our troops, some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground, and less time responding to the demands of MoveOn.org bloggers and CODEPINK protesters.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s President Bush speaking yesterday. Medea Benjamin, your response?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we think it’s great that Bush mentioned us. We only wish he would have listened to us back in 2002, when we formed CODEPINK and said that invading Iraq would be a disaster. And, of course, we wish that he and Congress would listen to us now, when we say bring the troops home and don’t invade Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the strategy that you’ve employed and what it means to be banned from the Capitol. In fact, it wasn’t just Desiree who was banned when she approached Condoleezza Rice; you, too, were banned that day, weren’t you?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes. There were five of us that were pulled out of the hearing room. I was pulled out for going like this.
AMY GOODMAN: Meaning holding up a peace sign.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Holding up my hands in a peace sign, that’s right. And I face a jury trial for that unlawful conduct. And they are cracking down harder on us. We have about a dozen CODEPINK men and women right now who are banned from the Capitol, which is something we would like to get some lawyers to contest the legality of that.
In the meantime, we really need more people to come forward and join us in the CODEPINK house in D.C., because we’re absolutely determined that we have people in every one of these hearings where they're talking about the war. And right now, there’s going to be another big moment when Bush is asking for more money for the war, and Congress is going to have to decide whether they’re going to give it to him. We need to be there in their faces every single day. So our appeal to all the listeners of Democracy Now! is: come to D.C. Stay at the CODEPINK house. It’s a fabulous experience. But we need you to be there when we can’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to be able to be walking through the Capitol now?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I can go to -- Desiree is banned from the entire Capitol. My judge reduced it to just the Rayburn Building, which is where most of the hearings take place. So we can get people right there and then put them -- situate them in the building they have to be in and the hearing room they have to be in, but most of us can’t go into those rooms anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: What approach are you taking with Iran?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: In the case of Iran, we think it’s extremely important to be walking through the halls of the Capitol every day now, saying to every single congressperson that goes by, “Don't you dare support any attack on Iran, and sign onto the bills that say Bush must go to Congress first.”
AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, I spoke to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a few nights ago, and I asked her about CODEPINK’s strategy. I asked her, actually, was she more disturbed by -- was it harder to deal with the Republicans or CODEPINK, since you have camped out on her lawn, both in Washington and in California, in San Francisco. She said that she can’t forgive CODEPINK for bringing it to [her] doorstep. The issues are one thing, but making her feel afraid in her home or bothering her family is another. Your response?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: We say that there are now over four million Iraqis who don’t even have homes anymore and that she has the power to stop the war. She has the power to decide what legislation goes to the floor, and she pretends this is about the Senate not having the votes. And we know that that’s not true, that she can just say, “I am not going to put a bill on the floor that gives Bush more money for war.”
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Medea Benjamin and Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz, thanks so much for being with us.