February 6, 2007
OCCUPATION PROJECT ROLLS INTO McCAIN’S WORLD
By Bill Rau for www.consumersforpeace.org
February 5, 2007
The arrests started just five minutes after people
entered Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) office in the
Senate Office Building. The first of a planned
three-month series of occupations of U.S. legislators’
offices was designed to demand specific action to
quickly end the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.
About 50 people, representing nearly twenty
participating organizations, took part in the
nonviolent civil disobedience. Both TV and print media
covered the event.
The nonviolent actions will re-occur over the next two
to three months, both at the U.S. Congress offices and
the state offices of Senators and Representatives.
Also, on February 5th, events were held at McCain’s
office in Phoenix and the state offices of the two
senators from Illinois— Barack Obama and Richard
Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip.
The occupation called upon Senator McCain—as it will
in all subsequent actions—to:
· Publicly declare that he will vote against further
funding for the war and occupation;
· Introduce legislation to provide full benefits and
quality health care to returning service men and
· Introduce a companion Senate Resolution to
forthcoming HR Resolution 508;
· Introduce legislation to provide funds for
reconstruction in Iraq by neutral humanitarian
According to Zanne Joi, a member of Code Pink: Women
for Peace, the occupation of Senator McCain’s office
was designed to appeal to his conscience, as he had
been subject to violence as a prisoner of war in Viet
Joi said that arrest was a risk necessary to
demonstrate people’s commitment to ending the U.S.
military actions in Iraq. Speaking outside McCain’s
office, Gael Murphy, also of Code Pink, said that
arrest was less a risk than was taking no action
against the war.
Following a briefing and making plans to deal with
potential arrests, the demonstrators gathered in the
hallway outside of Senator McCain’s office. Photos of
Iraqis affected by the war and occupation were
displayed. The names and ages of both Iraqis and U.S.
military personnel killed during the occupation were
read out. The naming continued as they entered
McCain’s office. After each name, others chanted, “We
remember you.” Another song included the line: “Cut
the funding for the war, or we’re going to block your
Nine people were arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police
who knew of the planned action beforehand. The police
woman who met the group when it first arrived was very
accommodating, clear but flexible in her directions
about noise and keeping a path clear in the hallway.
Another officer dismissed the complaints of a McCain
staffer to stop the photography in the office. “She
has a right to take photographs,” the officer was
overhead to say to the staffer. At the same time, the
ten or so police who broke up the occupation were very
specific and official when they ordered people to
leave the office or face arrest.
Those arrested were led away in hand constraints.
Among them were Kathy Kelly and Jeff Leys of Voices
for Creative Nonviolence which has organized the
campaign. During the occupation of McCain’s office,
one member of the group kneeled on the floor with a
black hood over his head. His T-shirt read, “Shut down
Guantanamo.” He, too, was arrested.
It was hard watching people being led away, hands
cuffed behind their backs. But I admired their
continued vocal statements against the war as they
were taken down the hallway and eventually to jail for
For me, observing the occupation (a word that neatly
parallels, but in contra-distinction to the Iraq
occupation) was a rare event. I tend to avoid much
interaction with “law makers,” except for an
occasional letter to my senators and representative.
On one level, I admire the determination and courage
of people who regularly voice their opposition to so
many harmful U.S. policies and actions. At the same
time, I wonder: Does it change congressional
direction? Aren’t most members of Congress so embedded
with corporate views of well-being and U.S. “rights”
in the world that they don’t see alternatives to
narrow visions of “national security”? While I tend to
dwell on those “big” issues, it is good to see and
hear small and large groups clearly express viable
alternatives through nonviolent actions.
February 5th was chosen as the date to kick off the
campaign as it was the fourth anniversary of Colin
Powell’s speech at the U.N. during which he made false
and distorted arguments to justify the invasion of
Iraq in 2003. It also was the day that the U.S.
administration asked Congress for another $100 billion
to continue the war.
A number of local actions are being organized for
February, March and April as a part of the campaign.
More information is available at the website of the
Center for Creative Nonviolence
(http://www.vcnv.org/), Occupation Project.