Medea Benjamin is internationally renown for standing up for the oppressed and against violence and war. The co-founder of Code Pink, Women for Peace, is also no stranger to hostile situations involving law enforcement.
But she never expected to be ordered off the National Mall or face arrest if she didn’t stop holding heart shaped peace signs and wearing a shirt with a peace messages on it. But that is what happened to her and eleven other peace activists at the Concert For Valor on Veteran’s Day.
Benjamin has worked internationally on peaceful solutions to world conflict and went to the Mall to reach out to the public about U.S. plans to send troops back to Iraq.
Bullied By U.S. Park Police
Benjamin said U.S. Park Police confronted her on Constitution Avenue after she had already cleared the 7th Street security entrance. “Park Police came and told us we had to get rid of our signs and get out of there,” said Benjamin.
She said the officers refused to give their names or call a supervisor to the scene. “They literally pushed us out of there and said ‘you have to go to the free-speech zone on 15th street,” she said. But after going there she found it was an isolated area on a small piece of grass with nobody around.
Benjamin was dismayed and angered by the “nasty” treatment, but didn’t show her anger because she didn’t want to be arrested. She showed the officer a copy of a newspaper clipping listing restricted items. Signs were not among them.
Messages of War Were Permitted, Peace Messages Not
Other people were wearing shirts with logos on them, reported Benjamin. “People had all types of messages they were wearing on tee-shirts, including ‘Go Navy’ ‘Support the Marines’ with some wearing flags, insignia and pictures of loved ones killed in the war,” she said.
Benjamin believes her message of peace was not acceptable to Park Police. “Its just so creepy to think that people with a peace message are not welcomed on our Nation’s Mall.”
Armistice Day Purpose Changed
Armistice Day was originally a celebration of the end of World War I, the ‘War To End Wars’ and “a day to say no war [but] got turned around to honor the warrior and the wars themselves,” said Benjamin. She believes the military exists to protect, among other things, our democratic right to free speech but the police take those rights away when they arbitrarily impose their own will.
Veterans Receptive to Message
Benjamin suggested there were several people who thought their messages of peace were “naive” but most people they spoke to were very receptive and wanted to join Code Pink’s email list. “We were talking specifically about Obama sending more troops to Iraq. There were many Veterans who came over and said how unhappy they were with Obama’s decision,” she said. She said the vast majority of Veterans were favorable to their message of peace.
Benjamin said she has photos of the police who bullied her and the other peace activists and video clips of their conversations with police and plans to follow up with a Park Police supervisor.
Park Police Public Affairs had not responded with comments by publication deadline.
Video of peace outreach on National Mall by DCIndyMedia. https://archive.org/details/