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Protesters target Condi Rice in Tampa

The Bay Area’s own former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution fellow, was targeted by protesters today in Tampa. Via the Associated Press:

TAMPA, Fla. — Police in Tampa stopped a dozen anti-war protesters from entering an event attended by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after the group said it intended to arrest her for war crimes.

The protesters from Code Pink carried handcuffs Tuesday and tried to enter a performing arts center. Rice was attending an event in conjunction with the Republican National Convention. They said they wanted to make a citizen’s arrest of Rice. She was George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser when the Iraq War started in 2003.

Officers told protesters to leave because they were on private property. They went back to the sidewalk and several lay down under sheets made to look like they were blood-splattered.

The group says it will try to arrest other members of the George W. Bush administration.

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Tim Pawlenty glitter-bombed by activists in SF

Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was sprinkled with glitter and confetti by a pair of gay-rights activists today in San Francisco.

Pawlenty was attending the American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2011 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center when he was approached by activists Nancy Mancias, 41, and Chelsea Byers, 24, both of San Rafael, from the women’s peace group CODEPINK. “Where’s your courage to stand up for gay and reproductive rights? Welcome to San Francisco, home of gay hero Harvey Milk!” they said as they were being led away.

In a news release issued after the incident, the activists said they were inspired by another glitter attack mounted against Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last month in Minneapolis.

“We are on the cusp of a important civil rights movement and Pawlenty wants to end it. He has expressed his desire to reinstate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’”, Mancias said in the release. “He’s vetoed equal rights legislation in his home state of Minnesota.”

UPDATE @ 3:10 P.M.: All glitter aside, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse issued a statement noting Pawlenty was in San Francisco to speak to health insurance executives, “and he’s getting paid to do it.”

Woodhouse noted Pawlenty recently endorsed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Republican budget plan that would convert Medicare into a voucher system for future generations.

“Perhaps being bought and paid for by the health insurance executives is something Tim Pawlenty is fine being known for, but it won’t help future seniors who will be forced to pay more for less in terms of health care if Republicans get their way and end Medicare,” Woodhouse said. “Perhaps pocketing thousands of dollars in cash to give a speech outlining his plan to repeal health reform is a plus for Tim Pawlenty, but it won’t help seniors afford their prescription drugs or preventive care, it won’t help young people access health insurance and it won’t help people being denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.”

Pawlenty campaign spokesman Alex Conant quickly returned fire.

“This lame attack is just more evidence that President Obama has a campaign plan, not an economic plan,” Conant said via e-mail. “Given the inordinate amount of attention the DNC spends on Governor Pawlenty, it’s clear they recognize that Pawlenty’s record of results is a stark contrast to Obama’s empty rhetoric. We’re not going to be lectured by Democrats who have failed to address out-of-control health care costs, deficits and unemployment.”

Conant declined to comment on the glitter-bombing.

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Bay Area human rights activists are in Cairo

Human rights activists with CODEPINK – including cofounder Medea Benjamin of San Francisco and San Jose Peace & Justice Center president Sharat Lin of Fremont – are amid the protestors on the streets of Cairo calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Click here to see their photos.

From CODEPINK’s news release:

The activists report that Egyptians have been excited to see their message of solidarity from the American people. Many Egyptian protesters are carrying signs that say “My address is Tahrir square until Mubarak leaves” and they are holding firm. The activists also report that many Egyptian youth seem ecstatic that President Obama has acknowledged their voice in Egypt’s political affairs but they want him to put more pressure on Mubarak to step down. Women are in the streets and have played a major role in the grassroots movement for democracy in Egypt. Today, as violence towards peaceful demonstrators escalates, the activists said rumors have circulated that the pro-Mubarak agitators are paid supporters of the dictator.

CODEPINK is calling on President Barack Obama, the State Department, and Congress to stop funding the Mubarak regime, which now receives over $1.8 billion per year in military assistance from the United States.

CODEPINK says theirs is “perhaps the only international solidarity delegation on the ground in the country,” and plans to demonstrate at the U.S. Embassy tomorrow.
The delegation – CODEPINK’s ninth trip to Egypt and Gaza in the past two years, including people from the U.S. Canada, Australia, the U.K., Switzerland and India – had intended to travel through Egypt to Gaza, but was foiled by the closing of the Rafah border crossing; they now plan to stay in Cairo until safe passage to Gaza is possible.

CODEPINK and other groups plan a protest and march in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5th at 1 pm in UN Plaza at Market and Eighth streets in San Francisco), and then a march across the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday, Feb. 13.

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Brown-bagging for peace

Progressive Democrats of America is planning another round of brown-bag lunch vigils at House members’ district offices – including four in Northern California – next Wednesday, Feb. 17 to demand commitments to vote against more money for war.

brown-bag lunch The first round, on Jan. 20, targeted 22 House members; this round already has 37 events scheduled. And this time, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice. Poster slogans include “Healthcare not Warfare,” “Corporations out of Politics,” “Bailout Main Street not Wall Street,” and “Brownbaggers not Teabaggers.”

In Northern California, the vigils are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s office, 1010 10th St. in Modesto; noon to 1 at Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s office, 1101 College Ave. in Santa Rosa; and noon to 2 p.m. at Rep. Barbara Lee’s office, 1301 Clay St., Suite 1000-N in Oakland, and at Rep. John Garamendi’s office, 1981 N. Broadway, Suite 220 in Walnut Creek.

Can you guess which of these is least likely to invite the brown-baggers in? I knew you could.

The activists want House members to vow to oppose any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to do the same. They also want members to cosponsor antiwar legislation including Lee’s HR 3699, which would prohibit any increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That bill’s 28 cosponsors already include Woolsey as well as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

“We have to choose between jobs and wars,” PDA national director Tim Carpenter said in a news release. “The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people’s control before it is too late.”

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Local activists prepare for ‘Gaza Freedom March’

Some of the more than three dozen Bay Area residents who are headed to Gaza for a New Year’s Eve peace march will gather tonight in San Francisco to make banners and flags.

The Gaza Freedom March is being organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, with San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Global Exchange on the organizing committee. The Bay Area contingent will fly to Cairo later this month, joining a 1,000-person delegation from 42 nations to enter Gaza for the march near the closed Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel; as many as 50,000 Palestinians are expected to attend.

The local contingent includes activists, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis students, artists and at least one internationally known celebrity: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker of Berkeley.

Local “solidarity actions” mirroring the march are planned in other cities around the world. In San Francisco, there’ll be a memorial vigil at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 in Union Square for Palestinians killed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza last year, and organizers have obtained a permit for a march across the Golden Gate Bridge at noon on New Year’s Eve.

“The world needs to know that the situation in Palestine is not morally acceptable nor legal under international law,” march participant and recent Cal Poly grad Marina Barakatt of San Francisco said in a news release. “Human rights abuses, land expropriation, targeted assassinations, house demolitions, and increasing repression are part of the price Palestinians pay, framed as a just, nationalist fight.”

But San Francisco Voice for Israel activist Michael Harris said “(T)he sad thing about this is that the groups promoting this event are really not interested in peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. They are supporting the Hamas regime, which vows to destroy not only Israel but targets all Jews worldwide.”

“By continuing to promote an extremist agenda, and by supporting a regime that is not only anti-Semitic but also is homophobic and misogynistic, these groups are actually perpetuating Palestinian suffering,” he said. “Time and energy that could have been spent in building a Palestinian future has instead been devoted to trying to destory Israel’s future.”

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CodePINK’s solidarity with the shoe-thrower

There’s never a wrong time for street theater against the war, as far as CodePINK is concerned, and so the activists who blockaded and protested downtown Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station for all that time will be back outside the station at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, in a show of ow solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

(Didja see how fast Bush ducked? Not bad for a 62-year-old who’s used to having a room full of trained professionals throw themselves in front of him at the first sign of trouble. And, by the way, I can understand how al-Zaidi could have a chance to launch the first loafer, but shouldn’t someone have gotten to him before the second?)

ANYway, CodePINK activists are calling for his immediate release without charges; they even want Bush to intervene on his behalf. (Yes, good luck with that, let me know how it goes.) They’ll march around the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square holding their shoes aloft, then line them up for a dramatic tableau; it’s meant not only to show support for al-Zaidi’s act of civil disobedience, but also to represent Iraqis killed, tortured, maimed and U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq, the news release says.

“It’s outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis,” said CodePINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes.”