Sunday, July 30, 2006

Activists Arrested At White House

Activists Arrested At White House
By Audrey Edwards
Washington Post

Five antiwar activists, four of whom have been on a hunger strike for 25 days, were arrested yesterday for demonstrating without a permit after they blocked an entrance to the White House during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's meeting with President Bush.

The protesters shouted antiwar slogans and held banners calling for troops to be brought home from Iraq.

The group was among several dozen demonstrators who had gathered outside the White House while Blair was inside. The arrests occurred after the five blocked the entrance and ignored police orders to move, said Rae Abileah, a coordinator for the antiwar group CodePink. Three of the people arrested are members of CodePink, including its co-founder, Diane Wilson of Seadrift, Tex.

The others arrested were Ann Wright of Honolulu, Louis Vitali of San Francisco, Martha Odom of Portland, Ore., and Eve Tetaz of Washington.

Wright, a retired Army colonel, said in a telephone interview after her release that the activists had hoped to block the White House gate until Bush and Blair resolved to end the war in Iraq.

Four of those arrested were on the 25th day of a hunger strike that is a project of CodePink. The group has issued a nationwide call for people to go on at least a partial hunger strike, if only for a few hours, to show their opposition to the war in Iraq.

About eight members of the group have been gathering each day in Lafayette Square since July 4.

The group had been issued a permit by the U.S. Park Police. It was revoked yesterday, however, after the protesters refused three requests from police to move from the White House entrance, thereby violating a condition of their permit, said Sgt. Scott Fear, a spokesman for the Park Police.

They then were arrested for demonstrating without a permit. Each was issued a $50 citation.

Afterward, several other hunger strikers lingered in the park. Geoffrey Millard, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said he had been fasting for five days.

"As a disabled vet, I'm also fasting from my medication," he said. "It's a painful experience, but a good one. Until the flag-draped coffins stop coming back, I can't go on with my daily life, move on or forget."

Despite the revocation of their permit, some of the demonstrators vowed to return to Lafayette Square to continue their hunger strike. They expect to stay in Washington until Aug. 15, when they plan to move on to Crawford, Tex. There, at Camp Casey outside President Bush's ranch, they say they will continue the hunger strike until Sept. 21.

Wilson said the protest and the subsequent arrests were worth it.

"I have to have faith," said Wilson, a former shrimp boat captain-turned-environmental activist. "I know it's going to be the catalyst for something, even if this is not going to be big enough to bring them home."