Medea Benjamin arrested for disrupting Iraqi Prime Minister's Congressional address:
Fasting co-founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange says Iraqis want war to end
Gael Murphy: 202-412-6700
Click here to see a CNN live video clip of the action!
Click here to see CBS footage of the disruption.
WASHINGTON, DC—This morning, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki addressed a joint session of Congress. During a segment of his speech in which al-Maliki said that Iraqi's ink-stained fingers evidenced their desire for democracy, Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace and Global Exchange, stood up from the gallery and shouted, “Iraqis want the troops to leave, bring them home now! Listen to the Iraqis!” Benjamin repeated the statement several times before she was forcefully lifted from her seat, handcuffed, and escorted out by Capitol police. Benjamin was wearing a pink shirt with the statement “Troops Home Now” written on it.
Benjamin, 54, of San Francisco, CA, is currently on her 23rd day of a long-term fast for peace called the Troops Home FAST (www.troopshomefast.org). She is charged with disrupting Congress. Whether Benjamin will receive a simple citation or will be booked at jail is still being determined by Capitol police. If she is not booked, Medea Benjamin will be available for comment and interviews. If you would like to speak with her, please call her cell phone 415 235 6517.
This disruption follows two days of requests for a meeting with Prime Minister al-Maliki. Since al-Maliki's arrival in Washington DC, women and men who are fasting for peace as part of CODEPINK's Troops Home FAST have been trying to arrange a meeting with the prime minister and the Iraqi Embassy. Fasters have been waiting for a response to a letter requesting a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss an Iraqi reconciliation plan that includes a timetable for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq. Benjamin stood outside the Iraqi embassy for the past two days waiting for a response to this letter.
Yesterday evening, fasters were ordered by police to clear the sidewalk in front of the embassy in preparation for al-Maliki's arrival. Five fasters refused to leave, thus risking arrest. The Iraqi Ambassador spoke with Benjamin by cell phone and asked that she and the fasters move aside, in exchange for the possibility that she and peace mom Cindy Sheehan would get a personal audience with al-Maliki during the evening reception. Sheehan and Benjamin also agreed to break their fast if granted a meeting with the Prime Minister. He promised to call should any challenges arise and this not be possible. However, Benjamin was denied entry to the embassy that evening, and waited for an hour outside, where she watched the prime minister arrive and leave without acknowledgement of their agreement.
After witnessing Benjamin's disruption, Maxine Waters, member of Congress and chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, stated, “We are going to witness more and more public outrage as the violence in Iraq escalates in this ongoing occupation.”
Benjamin's public statement is in line with recent polls from Iraq saying that only 1% of Iraqis trust U.S. forces with their security. Despite these numbers, Prime Minister al-Maliki is in Washington to request additional U.S. troops in Baghdad. Also in opposition to public opinion in both Iraq and in the U.S., the Bush administration has rejected and gutted the peace plan proposed by the Iraqi government.
Iraqi blogger and analyst Raed Jarrar of Global Exchange and Foreign Policy in Focus, who is also participating in the Troops Home FAST, said, “Medea Benjamin is speaking on behalf of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis and the Iraqi Parliament who want the troops out of Iraq.” A recent World Public Poll shows that 87% of Iraqis want a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
To view a high resolution version of the photo above of Medea Benjamin being arrested, please click here.