From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
“Potts is a Persian Gulf War veteran who served aboard the USS
Yosemite (AD-19). Potts was injured by evaporated mercury in an engine
room aboard the ship and was offered an honorable discharge after
failing to get treatment. She now lives off of Social Security
Potts married and fathered a child after his discharge, but divorced
in 2003. After the divorce, she began living as a woman full-time.
In February 2005, Potts was arrested on the lower steps of the Supreme
Court, along with two other DC Anti-War Network activists, David
Barrows and Pete Perry. The three were protesting the government’s
use of torture at places such as Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Detainment
Camp, as well as the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney
General. Later that same year, she was arrested with Cindy Sheehan and
about 370 others in front of the White House protesting the war and
occupation of Iraq.
She unsuccessfully ran in Missouri’s primary for the 7th District
Congressional seat as a Republican in 2006 against incumbent
Republican Congressman Roy Blunt. Potts received 7 percent of the vote
of those voting the Republican primary in the southwest Missouri
By Bree Hocking / Roll Call Staff / May 16, 2007
CODEPINK has staged anti-war demonstrations at the offices of Speaker
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.),
disrupted committee hearings, chanted songs in Capitol Hill hallways
and unfurled banners in the Hart Building.
But if some Members of Congress were hoping this female-led group
would eventually go away, they’ll be sorely disappointed.
Earlier this spring, after spotting a listing on Craigslist.org,
CODEPINK signed a one-year lease on a row house near Union Station –
giving the colorful group a semipermanent base of operation within
walking distance of its intended audience.
“I hope [Members] are shaking in their boots,” says 60-year-old Ann
Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel and diplomat, who resigned her
post at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia in protest against the war.
Wright, who is now a full-time activist, frequently stays at the house
when she’s in Washington, D.C.
Aside from a CODEPINK bumper sticker on the front entrance and a
feminine doormat out front, there isn’t much to distinguish the rather
nondescript brick walk-up at 712 Fifth St. NE from its neighbors. A
lone green sign in the yard reads: “Impeach Him.”
Inside, however, lies a veritable pink wonderland. Living room walls
are papered in anti-war and anti-President Bush signs that have been
used at protests. There’s a communal computer for blogging and a TV
nearly continuously turned to CNN or C-SPAN. A pink straw hat is
perched on a lampshade. Pink feather boas hang from a row of hallway
hooks. There’s a board listing contact information for the current
occupants of the House and a map with pushpins showing where they hail
from. Another board lists potential targeted news conferences,
briefings and hearings for each day. A bookshelf is stocked with
copies of the Constitution.
About 60 women – ranging from elementary-school-age to grandmothers –
have slept in the five-bedroom, four-level house for stays that
average about a week. There’s an online application for admission to
the house, which is typically reserved for “core organizers,” says
Barnard College graduate Rae Abileah, 24, CODEPINK’s local groups
“It’s like a sorority house but better,” says Dana Balicki, a bright-
eyed, 26-year-old who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and has been
working for CODEPINK since getting involved “right before” the 2004
Republican National Convention.
And like a sorority, there’s a house mother. Desiree Fairooz, a 50-
year-old former librarian and schoolteacher who left behind her family
in Arlington, Texas, to join the cause, is “our mama,” Balicki says.
CODEPINK doesn’t like the word “rules,” Fairooz says, although there
are a few house guidelines that include respecting yourself and
embracing the “feminist/womanist principles” of “anti-racism” and
That’s all good in theory, but how do roughly 20 women share two and a
half bathrooms – yes, there are pink shower curtains – peaceably? Just
fine, asserts Fairooz, noting that a 15-minute limit in the bathroom
Food comes in part from donations – a local activist who collects
bread for the needy also helps supply CODEPINKers. “We’ve been needy
lately,” Fairooz explains. There also are periodic runs to Costco, and
everybody who stays at the house pays $5 per day into a general
grocery fund. Given the short stays, the kitchen cupboards’ contents
are labeled for easy usage. Chores are a shared responsibility. A pink
sign tacked to the dishwasher warns that the current load is “dirty.”
CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans says the group – which emerged in the
months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and whose name is a
spoof on the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded threat
level system – was inspired to lease the house after a group of
CODEPINK activists had briefly rented a house on the Hill and found
the “community” they shared there “nurturing.” Having an official
house, Evans adds, allows the group “to work closer together” and to
respond “more quickly” to events around Washington. The $2,200-a-month
rent is paid through member donations.
And the coolest room in the house? That’s the basement “peace room,”
says 8-year-old Autumnrain Symphony, who arrived last week with her
mom, Deidra Lynch, to take part in Mother’s Day peace activities.
“It’s my favorite place,” the bespectacled fourth-grader confides,
before breaking out into a rendition of a protest song to the tune of
“God Bless America.” In the “peace room,” Autumnrain says she can
escape the other “crowded” rooms and play dress-up with the various
costumes and props the group keeps for its demonstrations.
The costume choices are plentiful, notes Fairooz. For instance, she
says, if CODEPINKers were headed to an event with embattled Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales, they might “go as pink police” to show they
wanted “to arrest him.” There also are pink scrubs hanging from
ceiling pipes – which are useful when offering prescriptions to
lawmakers “to make America well,” she says – and even a pink sequined
“I Miss America” gown. In other parts of the room, pink tulle is
wrapped around the ceiling pipes. A pink curtain attached to the
ceiling doubles as a screen for movie nights. There also are
stockpiles of paint and brushes for making signs.
It’s in the “peace room” that nightly strategy sessions are held to
discuss which Members and hearings to target the following day.
Being a female-dominated group, it’s not surprising that tips on
dressing also come up. “If you went to Gonzales and were wearing
torture clothing, you would be appropriately dressed for the
Judiciary” hearing later that day, Medea Benjamin, a CODEPINK co-
founder, tells the assembled group Monday night. Abileah even models
their new pink tunics, the fabric for which was donated by Danny
DeVito’s wife, Rhea Perlman.
So far, neighbors haven’t minded the activity at the house, these
women say. One family brought a card with a $200 donation that
represented part of its tax refund for the year. Another local woman
painted scenes of Capitol Hill houses, which now adorn the walls of
While the occasional man who stays at the house is generally relegated
to the basement, several men have helped outfit the digs. One drove
from Indianapolis to build the women bunk beds. Another bought them a
rickshaw-style, pedaled cart, kept out back behind the house, to carry
those who have trouble walking.
When the activists return in the evening after a day of “actions,” the
house serves as a place to regroup and network. Given the flow of
people who drift in and out, a relatively low-key vibe dominates. In
the tiny backyard – which features pink impatiens and geraniums – a
male Army nurse who recently returned from service in Iraq hangs out
with a cowboy hat-wearing Vietnam War-era veteran from Texas who
sports a ponytail. Both men took part in an anti-war march earlier
that day. Inside the house, Midge Potts, a self- described
“transgender activist” who lives as a woman though she was born a man
and who ran against then-House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in his
GOP primary last summer, is on her cell phone organizing people to
pick up those who were arrested while protesting that day. In an
upstairs bedroom, women count the money they’ve collected to help bail
out those who were arrested.
At the end of the day, lights-out times vary, says Evans, who works
out of one of CODEPINK’s California offices but stays at the house
when in D.C. “We don’t have to have rules. You have respect. You
figure it out.”
And anyhow, at least for the moment, the occupants appear to be mainly
an early-rising crew. A few minutes before 8 a.m. Tuesday, several
women pile into a car to head over to the National Press Club, where
Gonzales is scheduled to headline a breakfast.
Just then, Lori Perdue, 38, stumbles into the kitchen yawning. “We
were doing jail support till 5:30 a.m.,” says the poet, mother of two
and former Air Force radio broadcaster, who was inspired to join
CODEPINK by Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war activism.
Elizabeth Barger, a 71-year-old woman with long gray braids who lives
on a cooperative farm in Tennessee, offers to make Perdue some eggs so
she can get ready to take Barger to the Hill to look for Sen. Lamar
Alexander (R-Tenn.). Barger has been through this before. She
remembers marching against the Vietnam War and in earlier anti-
violence protests in the 1970s, but this is worse, she believes. “We
know better” now, she says.
So will CODEPINK renew its lease when it comes up next March?
Evans hopes the group doesn’t have to.
“When that’s up we hope the soldiers are home from Iraq,” she says.
CNN INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back to the CNN NEWSROOM.
I’m Rick Sanchez.
Happy to have you back.
There is a lot going on.
And let’s get to this story now. We told you about it when I was
talking to Fred — Fredericka — earlier. It’s Code Pink. It’s a peace
and social justice movement, primarily for women, by the way. It’s
committed to ending the war in Iraq through creative activism. That’s
what they say.
And one of its members certainly caught the national attention
yesterday. During Valerie Plame Wilson’s Congressional hearing, she
was right there in the background. You’ve seen her in a lot of these
videos, right? Well, her name is Midge Potts.
And she’s good enough to join us now from Washington.
You know, we saw you and we were curious what your message was, so
here you have an opportunity to share it with us.
why were you there? what were you trying to say?
MIDGE POTTS, CODE PINK: Well, I think it was plainly stated on my
shirt that I was saying impeach Bush now. I was also saying that
Americans should not be afraid to speak their views in that we live in
a country where our government is supposed to be of the people and we
need to remind our representatives of that.
SANCHEZ: Well, why hasn’t it been of the people? Where’s the problem
We’ve got a working democracy, people are making decisions. Some of
them are saying they’re against the war and they’re trying to work
their way out of it. Others are saying no, I’m for it, and they’re
trying to work their way through it.
So isn’t that democracy?
POTTS: Is that democracy?
Well, the American people voted in November overwhelmingly, I believe,
a mandate to bring the troops home from Iraq. And I think that our
representatives aren’t listening to the American people as much as
they are listening to lobbyists and their corporate contributors, who
have an interest in the war.
Many of these representatives have an interest in the war. They get
donations from Raytheon, Halliburton, Exxon Mobil and any number of
SANCHEZ: So what do you want them to do, Midge?
POTTS: Put the…
SANCHEZ: What do you want those officials that you saw there and stood
before in Washington — although you didn’t get a chance to talk to
them — if you had had a chance to talk to them, to that Congressional
hearing that you were before yesterday, what would you have said to
POTTS: Well, I have talked to quite a few representatives and senators
over the last several weeks. I have lobbied, talked to my own senator,
Claire McCaskill; talked to an aide of Kit Bond and asked them to stop
funding the war.
So short of that, I think impeachment is the only answer to stop Bush
from his single-minded…
SANCHEZ: So you want them to stop funding the war, A, and you want
them to impeach George Bush, B? That’s — that’s the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
POTTS: Sure. I switched it to the impeach during the Valerie Plame
hearing mainly because it seems like that the Democrats or — are
going to push the supplemental through. At the appropriations hearing
on Thursday, they would not let the public into the hearing. And as
the public was outside yelling, “Let us in!” about 30 or 40 people,
three people were arrested and police brutality, basically, resigned
the day on Wednesday afternoon.
SANCHEZ: Is this just about the war for you, or are there other
causes, as well, that you and or organization have taken on?
POTTS: Well, sure. It’s primarily about the war because the war is
costing us — has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions
of dollars, even, if you throw in the regular military budget. And
other issues, other things that need to be — other policies…
SANCHEZ: Like what? Like what?
Share with us what.
POTTS: Like health care, education, decent schools, the ability for
people to get education and have career opportunities besides the
military. I really believe that a lot of students — a lot of people
are being — are joining the military because they really have no
other career options right now.
SANCHEZ: Midge Potts, we thank you so much for joining us.
And we thank you for sharing your perspective with us on this, one
that a lot of people saw yesterday, but didn’t get a chance to hear.
POTTS: OK, thank you very much.
SANCHEZ: All right.
We thank you for your comments once again.