On Monday, about 500 of us gathered at the White House during Obama’s Rose Garden meeting with doctors who are supportive of his health care plan. Through the hedges, we could see movement and I’m certain he and his invitees could hear us as we bullhorned, “Healthcare not warfare.”
We protestors from many organizations, including World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, and Witness Against Torture, arrived before the garden party began and as we walked the sidewalk and stated our demands to ‘make him do it,’ police officers told us we could not remain on the sidewalk. “Move to the street,” we were directed.
When I stayed where I was, an officer said, “You’ll have to leave the sidewalk.’ I asked him if my nephew died in Iraq for this—a loss of my freedom to stand on a public sidewalk. He was pleasant but adamant and said, ‘Get on the sidewalk.”
I had already turned to move towards the street but reeled around and said, “You just told me I could remain on the sidewalk.”
He smiled and said, “So, you caught that.” I did indeed. I smiled back and he said, “I wish you could stay on the sidewalk.” With this acknowledgement, I moved a few feet to the street.
My friends Debra Sweet and Elaine Brower of World Can’t Wait have worked tirelessly to end war, to halt the humanitarian disaster we have wreaked on those we invade and occupy. “Stop the torture, stop the war,” they repeated. Elaine, with a black hood over her head and wearing an orange jumpsuit and chains represented a detainee in America’s war of terror. Debra gave an impassioned speech.
Cindy Sheehan arrived to make clear her statement that it doesn’t matter who is president if the same immoral acts of war and devastation continue. If George Bush is a war criminal, so is Barack Obama. She also read the International People’s Declaration of Peace.
Code Pinkers Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright were there, having just returned that morning from Afghanistan where they met with Afghan women who related the suffering that is a result of war.
Two other notable political activists I recognized are the indefatigable Kevin Zeese and David Swanson.
Meanwhile, Gen Stanley McChrystal says 40,000 additional troops are required for success in Afghanistan. And another $130 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq is pushing through a Congress that does not listen to the will of the people. Obama, weighing his options, is strategizing and equivocating. Eight US troops were killed last weekend. Eight more families are changed forever.
Obama’s challenge to us to make him do it should inspire us to do just that. Unfortunately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had this to say about the protest: