By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The speakers had just finished lamenting recent acts of vandalism at military recruiting centers and had opened the floor to questions at the National Press Club when peace activist Tighe Barry jumped up, took off his shirt and revealed the pink military tunic he was wearing underneath.
"This is what I think of the Marine Corps!" he yelled. "The Marine Corps needs to be the peace corps!"
Incensed, Kevin L. Martin rushed to the microphone. "Let me tell you something, dammit!" he hollered. "I'm a Navy veteran of seven years, and . . . you are a joke, sir! Please step the hell out of the building!"
The face-off yesterday between the pro-troops group and the antiwar group Code Pink was a preview of a series of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that are scheduled in and around Washington over the next few days.
Groups supporting the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Move America Forward, a Gathering of Eagles, and Free Republic, plan a rally at 11 a.m. today at the Washington Monument, followed by a 1 p.m. march along Constitution Avenue.
Antiwar groups plan an extensive series of events, including marches, protests and blockades, across the city Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
The protesters, headed by the umbrella group United For Peace and Justice, plan, among other things, a morning demonstration at the Internal Revenue Service at 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, disruptions along K Street NW and a 10 a.m. march on the Mall.
They plan roving activities throughout the day, as well as a procession from Arlington Cemetery to Washington, and demonstrations at the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Other events have been scheduled in the days in between, and each side is likely to shadow the other's actions.
Yesterday's preview began with the news conference arranged by Sacramento-based Move America Forward to call attention to vandalism at military recruiting offices across the country, including the detonation of a small bomb last week at a recruiting station in Manhattan.
The group issued a document, titled "the Sedition Report," which it said detailed acts of vandalism going back several years. The report included an incident last month in the 1300 block of L Street NW in which the lobby of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center was trashed and slogans were chalked on the outside walls.
"We have discovered that there have been over 100 attacks on our Marine recruiting and military recruiting centers all across America . . . over a two-year period of time," said Melanie Morgan, who chairs Move America Forward. She demanded that the federal government investigate any connections between the attacks.
"We have seen a pattern," said Debbie Lee, the mother of Marc Alan Lee, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Iraq in 2006. "We're calling for Americans to stand up. A lot of people are not aware of what's going on."
The hollering started after Morgan opened the floor to questions, and Barry, 51, a veteran activist from Santa Monica, Calif., and a member of Code Pink, stood and began to debate Morgan's claims.
"I'm a second-generation Marine!" he yelled as he revealed his pink coat, which he wore with light pink pants with a dark pink military stripe. He said later in an interview that he had not in fact been a Marine, but his father and brother had. "We love the Marines! We want to bring them home!"
Security officials appeared as the event degenerated into shouting and jostling and told Barry to leave.
"Under what authority are you asking me to leave?" he yelled as he was hustled out the door. "This is wrong! This is America! . . . Where am I going?"
"Shut the hell up," one of the security men snapped. Barry was escorted to the lobby and told not to come back.
Back at the news conference, disputes continued loudly.
"Lies, lies, lies," a Code Pink supporter chanted.
Catherine Moy, executive director of Move America Forward, said: "We don't do this at their press conferences."