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Protesting for Peace With a Vivid Hue and Cry

Toby Blome of El Cerrito, Calif., is in Washington to protest with others from the 250 chapters of Code Pink.
Toby Blome of El Cerrito, Calif., is in Washington to protest with others from the 250 chapters of Code Pink. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

Outrageousness comes easily to Benjamin, a frenetic mother of two, who changed her name from Susan to Medea in college, figuring the Greek figure probably got a bum rap for being a strong woman. She recalls that at the retreat, the discussion about creating Code Pink ended with her suggesting -- in the "spirit of joy and exorcism" -- that the women do nude cartwheels.

And they did.

* * *

Among the dark-suited Hill staffers, it's easy to pick out the women of Code Pink eating lunch in the cafeteria of the Dirksen Building. Nearly all are wearing pink, although Ann Wright wears a bright orange Guantanamo detainee-style jumpsuit with "GONZALES, A" on the back.

Wright is a retired Army colonel who in 2003 resigned her position as a diplomat in Mongolia to protest the war. She's eating zucchini and giving an update on the morning's activities.

She says a bunch of Code Pink women, herself included, went outside the National Press Club that morning to rally against embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was giving a speech inside. A few of the women, including the formerly shy retiree Barbara Hilton, sneaked into the event without tickets -- Hilton wearing a green shirt so as not to look like a protester. She managed to blend in until Gonzales came to the podium, at which point she stood up and started telling him he should resign.

"We'd coached her on the way over," Wright says.

Hilton is now banned from the building. They took her picture in case she ever showed up again.

The "security guard who takes the pictures, he's really nice," says Wright, who says she, too, was banned from the building after a Hillary Clinton event. "If the picture isn't very good or if you don't have your peace symbol right, he lets you take it over again."

Diane Wilson comes over to talk about her morning at the Gonzales breakfast. She's a former shrimper, an environmental activist and a fifth-generation resident of the tiny town of Seadrift, Tex.

"The plan was to handcuff myself to Gonzales," Wilson says. But security came around asking for her ticket and she figured she'd get kicked out shortly, so under pretense of looking in her purse, she handcuffed herself to her chair.

"They started jerking me and I was jerking the chair between us," she says. Finally, the handcuffs broke. Cheap pair, Wilson says. If she'd had her other handcuffs with her, that wouldn't have happened.

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