Activists from CODEPINK: Women for Peace were ejected from the RNC after disrupting the primetime addresses of speakers at the convention’s podium three nights in a row. We speak CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin and Gael Murphy. [includes rush transcript]
While much of the protest at the RNC took place outside the Madison Square Garden, a surprising number of activists managed to disrupt the proceedings inside. For the third night in a row, activists from CODEPINK: Women for Peace were ejected from the RNC after disrupting the primetime addresses of speakers at the convention’s podium. Last night during President Bush’s acceptance speech, he had to stop speaking twice after activists held up antiwar signs before being dragged from the floor of Madison Square Garden. Activist Jodie Evans revealed a pink slip underneath her dress that read "Fire Bush! Women Say Bring the Troops Home Now!" Earlier in the evening, Jorge Medina, whose son Irving was killed in the Iraq war was ejected for wearing a t-shirt with his son’s photo on it and the words "Bush Lied, My Son Died."
When the protesters disrupted Bush’s speech, delegates and others in the convention would begin chanting "Four More Years" in an effort to drown them out. This tactic seems to have been a coordinated response from the Republicans. Twice last night as Bush was speaking, the chant began for no clear reason. Moments later, Secret Service Agents could be seen dragging a demonstrator from the convention.
Earlier in the week, CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin came within 30 feet of Vice President Dick Cheney as he sat in his box. She unfurled a pink banner that read "Be Pro-Life: Stop the Killing in Iraq." She also managed to ask Cheney, "How much money have you made in Iraq today?" She was picked up by Secret Service agents and dragged from the floor and down a staircase. That same night, Fernando Suarez del Solar was also ejected from the convention. His son Jesus was killed in Iraq in March 2003. He stood near the Texas delegation and held up a sign that read "Bush Lied. My Son Died."
The following night, as Dick Cheney was giving his prime-time address, CODEPINK activists Gael Murphy and Tiffany Burns unfurled a banner that read, "Cheney and Halliburton, Making a Killing in Iraq." We are joined now by a few of the people who managed to disrupt the RNC from the inside.
- Medea Benjamin, longtime peace activist and co-founder of CODEPINK: Women For Peace.
- Gael Murphy, longtime peace activist and co-founder of CODEPINK: Women For Peace.
AMY GOODMAN: We will turn now to our guests in the studio who did manage to get into the convention. They aren’t delegates, they were protesters and despite the very heavy security, made it inside. Let’s listen for a moment to Medea Benjamin as she was just yards from Dick Cheney.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Stop the killing in Iraq! Mr. Cheney, stop the killing in Iraq! Mr. Cheney, how much money did you make on the war? Mr. Cheney, how much money did you make on the war?
AMY GOODMAN: Then Medea Benjamin was brought down the stairs head first. She joins us in the studio right now. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, along with Gael Murphy, who also managed to get into the convention. First of all, how did you do it?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well the amazing thing is that we had lots of opportunities to get in. We had drunk Republicans who gave us their passes, we had some journalists who gave us their passes. The best one of all was last night, Bush’s speech, we had one person, June Breshers, who you see being dragged across the floor, she got in with no credential.
AMY GOODMAN: In the largest security operation the city has seen, 160 million dollars went into it?
GAEL MURPHY: No credential to get in there and she got onto the floor. I mean we wanted to make our point about the war, but we also wanted to make the point that three nights in a row, the heads of CODEPINK and June, who is a Global Exchange staff person, managed to pierce the inner sanctums of this convention with an anti-war message but another subtext saying you can’t secure your own convention. How are you going to secure this nation?
AMY GOODMAN: My passes got so heavy on my neck because you have to wear all different kinds along with your I.D. Around your neck. She had nothing.
GAEL MURPHY: She said it slipped out. She was very upset saying I can’t find it. It slipped out of here. And they said oh, sorry about that, and gave her an extra one for last night.
AMY GOODMAN: Medea, you hold the rare distinction of not only being thrown out of the Republican National Convention, but the Democratic National Convention, as well. With the same message. Explain.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we thought it was important to be nonpartisan around this. Our issues are not about individuals, they are around policies. Sure, we saved our fury for this Republican convention, but we were at the Democratic convention to say to Mr. Kerry: Give us an anti-war alternative or you are going to lose the base of people even within your own party, 95% of whom, among the delegates, were against the war.
AMY GOODMAN: You almost made it out of the Republican National Convention, meaning you almost were able to stay because, and you unfurled that pink banner. At the top it said Pro-Life, Stop The Killing In Iraq. When the security came over to you, you said but this is a pro-life banner and they left you alone for a minute.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: That’s right. They were a little bit confused. I kept saying it’s on message. It’s Republican. It’s pro-life. So yeah, it bought me an extra couple of seconds. But I think it’s extraordinary, one, that Gael got in the next day. I mean we talked to each other maybe about 100 times on the phone. You would think the security would know her. And then the final day, the third co-founder of CODEPINK onto the floor, you have to wonder about the security that these guys —
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well of course there was all of the attention in some of the tabloids in the weeks leading up to the convention about how the police were following around a whole group of 56 people…
AMY GOODMAN: 56… anarchists.
JUAN GONZALEZ: … 56 people with detectives, and so nobody was following the three of you around.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: They were. My picture was on the 20 sort of most wanted. They were following us.
AMY GOODMAN: Gael Murphy, talk about your action the night before last. We were standing just above the press section and then saw the commotion below. What did you do?
GAEL MURPHY: I found a spot where I could enter and within view of cameras and whatever media were around, and I went through the usher saw that my pass didn’t allow me onto the floor, but I could get close enough where I could take my shirt off and expose the pink slip that I was wearing that said Cheney’s in bed with Halliburton and we got screwed. So the secret service, I assume jumped on me at that point. I did try to stay out of their way so that the cameras could get a good shot.
AMY GOODMAN: Now you did something unusual. The way Madison Square Garden worked, was that there were cameras on the floor to show delegates dancing and singing. Is it true that you stood in front of one of those cameras and at the point where it was showing the floor where you were, that’s when you did this? Were you on the, whatever you call it, the globeatron?
GAEL MURPHY: No, I simply walked through a passage toward the floor and got within, you know, five feet of the floor.
AMY GOODMAN: Right. I thought you were captured by that camera at the point when, that they broadcast it there. But so, you were taken out.
GAEL MURPHY: I was taken out.
AMY GOODMAN: What happens when you are taken out? Are you just put outside? Are you arrested?
GAEL MURPHY: Well I want to say before I was taken out, the Secret Service, at least three or four of them on top of me, I was in a choke hold flat on floor and one straddling me who made a point of trying to announce to the folks around him, I assume to the media, that I was kicking and that I was resisting arrest. And I wasn’t. I was completely still. So I think that’s important to mention, that they were trying to trump up some kind of an assault charge, potentially.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But when they did take you out of the arena, what did they do with you?
GAEL MURPHY: They took me to the basement for about three hours where I was interrogated by New York Police Department, Secret Service as well as Homeland Security, repeatedly asked questions about my background, my psychological state of mind, and whether I was a real threat to the Vice President.
AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, what did they ask you?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: They asked me if I had a personal vendetta against Arnold Schwarzenegger who was speaking at the time, or against the Vice President.
AMY GOODMAN: Now we should say that you did run for high office in California on the Green Party ticket.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes, CODEPINK was also the most visible group that was protesting the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger because of his sordid past around women and other issues. But I insisted I had no personal vendetta against these gentlemen. This is purely about policy issues. In my case, they actually let me go because they didn’t want the press to know that we had infiltrated the convention. But when we did it the second day, they got livid about it. In fact, they kept Gael for about 24 hours and our colleagues that are there from last night still haven’t been let out. And they called the news media and said: Why are you running those pictures?
JUAN GONZALEZ: So you, I think you had the distinction of being now arrested three times this, in the week and a half or so? And twice —
MEDEA BENJAMIN: And let go.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And twice let go.