A Message Playful Yet Poignant

Code Pink peace activists march from the White House to Lafayette Square as part of a 24-hour Mother's Day vigil.
Code Pink peace activists march from the White House to Lafayette Square as part of a 24-hour Mother's Day vigil. (Photos By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

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By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 15, 2006

Code Pink, an antiwar group that spent the weekend camped out across from the White House, is a segment of the peace movement not every opponent of the war in Iraq is comfortable with, a segment that yesterday included a leashed man in a pink dress and a very pregnant woman with a huge peace symbol across her naked belly.

But for some, such as Mark Archambault, enough is enough. Fed up with the Iraq war and fearing a U.S. attack on Iran, the 56-year-old retired postal worker and Navy veteran drove seven hours from his home in Upstate New York to Washington to join several hundred protesters, mostly women, at Code Pink's 24-hour Mother's Day vigil.

"I never would have done this before," Archambault said yesterday, gesturing to women dancing with pink and red roses in Lafayette Square, where many of them had camped out the night before at a "pink pajama party."

"But any effort to get us out of Iraq is productive," he said. "It's just gotten ridiculous. What do you wait for -- 10,000 dead? Twenty thousand? Maybe someone will listen."

Vigil organizers said about 1,000 people participated in the weekend activities, which included nonviolent action training sessions, a concert by folk musician Jill Sobule and a rally in the square yesterday with actress and activist Susan Sarandon and Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son died in Iraq. The group started in the months before the Iraq war, riffing with its name off the administration's color-coded terrorism alerts. Founded by women from the environmental, peace and anti-globalization movements, Code Pink has chapters in almost every state and in the District.

Summer Lipford said the crowd wasn't a group she had felt "particularly comfortable with" until last year, when her son, Pfc. Steven Sirko, 20, died in Iraq. The Statesville, N.C., mother sobbed before a hushed crowd as she described a delay in getting U.S. Army reports on how he died and how she drives alone to the cemetery in the middle of the night.

"I want people to know what's happening there," Lipford, 53, said in an interview. "The Iraqi people don't want us there, and we're not going to rule the world. At this point, I don't want another mother to go through this."

The protesters, wearing hot pink, were a mix of ages and races and included such longtime war opponents as clown-doctor Patch Adams -- in a pink wig, dress and tights -- and Gloria Berg, 82, who lifted up her turquoise slicker when asked what policy she preferred, revealing a pink T-shirt that read: "Impeach Bush!"

Berg, of Arlington County, said she believes President Bush's low poll numbers reflect a shift in public opinion on the war. When she marched in Washington the week after the war began, "people were booing us, closing their windows and their doors. Now the antiwar program is winning."

Code Pink spokeswoman Meredith Dearborn said the antiwar movement is "starting to shift our focus, now that this administration is rattling its saber" in Iran.

The 24-hour event concluded when Sarandon and Sheehan took the stage. The actress read a letter she wrote to first lady Laura Bush, which she said was delivered with the board game "Risk," which allows players to simulate war strategy.

"Our troops are so busy trying to stay alive that they don't have too much time to spread democracy," she said. Her letter suggested that the president "put his uniform back on" and accompany enlisted people when they inform mothers that their children are dead.

"Let him be the one to tell them that this week the call won't be coming, or the letter -- ever," Sarandon said. "Let him be the one to explain why they had to make the ultimate sacrifice. Maybe that will show him why wars are to be entered into only when absolutely necessary."


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