Declaration of Peace

What a sight to behold! On Friday, September 22, we brought peace to the heart of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington DC! People on five floors hung over the balconies spelling out NO WAR. We unfurled a huge 40-foot “pink slip” saying VOTE PEACE, FIRE BUSH, and other banners proclaiming Give Peace a Vote and Peace on Earth. All the while, our voices—singing War is Over If You Want It—reverberated throughout the building.

Click here to view the banner drop captured on camera and read more below!

To play slide show: click on image,
to view 'next': click on the image top right...
to view 'previous': click on the image top left...

Lastest Photos From DC, September 19-22, 2006
Including the women's march from Camp Democracy to the E Street Theater for the
movie premier of US vs. John Lennon
Photo Credits: James Hill & Rae Abileah


More photos from Ted Stein

Yet More photos from Laurel

To Declare Peace, Sign-up Here!

Today something historic happened in the Hart Senate Office Building,
By Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK Cofounder

Standing in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building today at noon, I was overcome by a feeling of awe and joy. About 20 of us had managed to carry out a complex, beautiful action-bringing our message of peace to our Senate—in almost flawless fashion. For about 30 minutes, we liberated the HART Building in a display of non-violent direct action at its finest….

First, on each of five floors, women perfectly aligned themselves by the elevator balconies. At the designated moment, they took off their jackets. Each had on a pink tunic with one letter. When they draped the tunics over the railing, from the top floor down, it spelled NO WAR. To our amazement, no police rushed over immediately to grab their signs and threaten to arrest them, as has happened on many other occasions in the same building. This time, the women stood there boldly, flashing peace signs and gently swaying.

A few minutes later, another group of women unfurled one of the signature "pink slips" we make for people we'd like to fire. This one was a gorgeous 40-foot banner in the shape of a woman's slip, with HUGE lettering saying VOTE PEACE, FIRE BUSH. Made of hot pink fabric surrounded with frilly white lace, it hung majestically from the 5th floor down to the 3rd floor. As soon as the women successfully unfurled it and tied it securely on top and bottom, two other banners appeared. The one below said Give Peace a Vote. The one next to it called for Peace on Earth.

Looking up at this amazing vision of serenity and peaceful energy warming the cold halls of Congress, those of us in the lobby started signing. First softly, very softly, then louder and bolder. The people above us holding the banners starting joining in and suddenly the joyful sounds of peace echoed throughout the building. WAR IS OVER, IF YOU WANT IT; WAR IS OVER, IF YOU WANT IT. John Lennon would have been proud. So would Yoko Ono. Over and over and over again, we kept singing. I started to cry-it was so overwhelming, so powerful. The Senators' aides started streaming out of their offices to see what was happening, many of them smiling, waving and flashing peace signs. It felt like a dream. Was this really happening in the heart of the Hart Building???

We had called the news media beforehand, telling them to come see a beautiful visual but not giving away the precise plans. CNN, FOX and several photographers showed up. Who knows what, if anything, they'll use. We've become so accustomed to the mainstream media ignoring us. But it would be a lovely sight, and sound, for the American people to behold. There is something very visceral about the message that war is over, if you want it. It makes you feel such a sense of responsibility, a sense of power, a sense of possibility. And of course, that's what the American people need to start feeling-that if enough of us want to, we can stop this war and the future ones that are looming ahead.

One reason we felt so empowered was that, for a change, the police were respecting our right to protest. This is the way it should be in a democracy. We've become so accustomed to having our rights violated that it seemed strange—almost surreal—to maintain our ground for enough time to have our message heard.

When the police did start giving people warnings that they would be arrested, we stopped. Elated, we descended to the lobby, hugging and kissing and grinning ear to ear. We formed a circle, held hands and sang some more. And when the police told us not to press our luck, we broke up and spread around the lobby hugging everyone in sight—the cameramen, the reporters, the senators' aides, even the plainclothes cops. We knew enough not to try to hug an armed officer, but we thanked them profusely.

We later heard from Jesse and Leslie, who had been on the 7th floor displaying the N in NO WAR, that the policeman on their floor had been very patient with them. When they thanked him, he replied somberly, "No need to thank me. My son died in Iraq." Jesse, taken aback, gave his condolences and started to weep. The pain of the war became all too real. So, too, did the need to stop it.

Today something historic happened in the Hart Senate Office Building. For a brief moment, the cold atrium of a government body—a body that ushered us into a disastrous war and is refusing to get us out of it—was peacefully liberated by the people. Now let's liberate the rest of the nation….

War Is Over, If you want it,
by David Hoffman

Like a cathedral for democracy, the towering atrium of open space inside the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill echoed Friday September 22 with a prayer set to music over three decades ago - during another ruinous war - by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Chanted over and over, at first softly and slowly building in intensity, the words finally rang out clearly like a bell tolling throughout the building's inner courtyard: "War is over … if you want it."

Over 20 antiwar activists, affiliated with the national group Codepink and mostly garbed in pink, had entered the Hart Building in three groups, each armed with banners, tucked carefully in backpacks to pass through the entry screening. The women fanned out into position, waiting for the signal to unfurl the banners from strategic spots on the upper courtyard floors.

Then came the first of the banners, first the letter "N" from an upper floor, then from the floor below came the letter "O" and next in order the letters "W" and "A" and "R" - each on a successively lower floor. Next a huge banner was lowered a few moments later saying "Vote Peace, Fire Bush,"

Then two more banners appeared, at other places from the upper floors - "Peace on Earth" and finally "Give Peace a Vote" - as the chanting continued - "War is over, if you want it." Fingers raised high in the "v" peace sign, the women swayed to the sound of their song.

And now the chanting was joined with others calling out "stop the war" - as TV camera crews from three networks and an Associated Press photographer captured the drama unfolding along with the banners. The Give Peace a Vote campaign had struck, using a gentle touch to bear witness to the gathering tide of voters unhappy with the US war and occupation of Iraq. With an election still six weeks away, this peaceful protest was drawing national attention, as just one action in a host of antiwar events occurring across the nation - vigils for peace in dozens of cities and towns, a Dance Action for Peace in San Diego, a tent city celebrating peace in Cincinnati.

A day earlier, a group of clergy, veterans and peace activists attempted to deliver a "declaration of peace" to the White House, kicking off a series of activities in at least 350 communities across the country calling for the prompt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Thirty-four people were arrested at the west gate of the White House when they demanded to speak with President Bush and then refused to disperse.

Organized by more than 400 groups, many of them religiously affiliated, the Declaration of Peace initiative is building towards next week, when Senators and Congressmen will be asked to sign a pledge to support a timetable for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Meanwhile, voters across the country are also being asked to sign petitions pledging to vote for candidates committed to peace, not to "stay the course" for war.

The declaration of peace emerged from discussions beginning in January among religious and secular peace groups and the antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice. Since then thousands of signatures have been gathered, with an eventual goal to reach two million.

And so the Codepink forces struck - just a day after the White House arrests -- but this time there were no arrests. A force of Capitol police arrived but after consulting briefly with one of the Codepink founders, Medea Benjamin from San Francisco, the police remained silent onlookers as the singing continued and the banners remained in place. They too appeared captive to this holy moment of speaking truth to power.

After about 15 minutes, the action ended as one by one the banners slowly were pulled up and out of sight and the singing began to dim and once again the huge atrium was returned to the soaring silence of the vaulting empty space.

Speaking to the participants and to the hovering cameras, Medea Benjamin thanked the Capitol Police "who allowed us our First Amendment rights" and celebrated "how we retreated in peace" after delivering the message to gawking Senate staffers who lined the floors watching and listening to the message that the war could indeed be over -- or at least the path to peace clearly defined -- once a voter mobilization crests by November 7. The campaign - to "give peace a vote" - has celebrity endorsements (Susan Sarandon. Willie Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson and, of course, Yoko Ono) but Medea Benjamin declared that the campaign could win the hearts and minds of millions of voters. "We want to align the sentiment of the American people with the politicians," she said.

Another Codepink leader, Gael Murphy from Washington DC, said "we want to create a peace voting bloc that will vote on the peace issue," the goal being what Benjamin called "a fixed timetable for withdrawal of US troops as soon as possible."

The original plan for that morning had been a "hug-In - using our arms to hug members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees," Benjamin said, but the idea was scrapped when it was clear that elected officials would not be present in one convenient location to get their hugs.

Organizers promise more actions next week, including an interfaith rally and procession around the Capitol on Tuesday (September 26), focused on the Senate, and similar actions the following day, focused on the House. On each day some participants will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience risking arrest. Then on Thursday (September 28), the groups will announce the next phase of the declaration of peace campaign.

The week of activities began Thursday September 21 at the White House but had been preceded by a week of music and films - including one about John Lennon and his conversion to the peace movement in the late 1960s - as well as teach-ins and training for civil disobedience at "Camp Democracy," a circle of tents on the Capitol Mall near the Washington Monument. Among the speakers were antiwar activist and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, historian Howard Zinn and expert on the Iraq invasion Phyllis Bennis.