Mikulski sit-ins; Three others head back to senator's office

March 21, 2007
Capital News Service - Baltimore Messenger

WASHINGTON — Four anti-war protesters, including Kristin Sundell of Hampden, were arraigned on unlawful entry charges March 13 in District of Columbia Superior Court.

Then, three of the four — but not Sundell — headed right back to the scene of their arrests on Feb. 27, the Washington office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

For the second time in as many weeks, Stephen Lane, 66, of Bethesda; Jean Athey, 61, of Brookville, and Peter Perry, 37, of Derwood were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police for failing to leave the senator’s office after its 6 p.m. closing.

They were among 20 protesters; but the three stayed after the others left.

They were ordered by Magistrate Judge Michael J. McCarthy to return to court April 2 for a hearing to determine whether or not they will proceed to trial.

If the case does move to that point, they will plead either “no-contest” or “guilty,” the three said. In the meantime, they will return to Capitol Hill to appeal for their cause.

Sundell, an outreach coordinator for the world debt-reduction advocacy organization Jubilee USA Network, said she wasn’t going back to Mikulski’s office because she had to go to work.

Gordon Clark, organizer of the March 13 protest, said he planned to occupy the office until Mikulski met the groups’ demands or until he was arrested in the same fashion as Lane, Sundell, Athey and Perry had been Feb. 27.

Mikulski has not been the only official visited by unhappy constituents demanding an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Many of the same protesters occupied the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, March 8 and said they plan to return soon.

“We’d like to do the whole congressional delegation,” Athey said.

At issue is a Bush administration supplemental appropriations bill that is expected to contain billions of dollars to finance the Iraq war. Anti-war protesters contend that the war should not be funded in any form.

Mikulski voted against authorizing the war, but has pledged to support the latest request because it provides essentials for troops on the ground and for them once they return to the United States.

An anti-war stance isn’t enough to appease the protests. Even outspoken war critic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is not immune.

Members of CodePink, a women’s anti-war movement, visited Pelosi’s office March 13 and camped in front of her California home to urge her “to be a leader and lead us out of the Iraq war,” said CodePink member Nancy Mancias.

CodePink and the Maryland protests are part of the Occupation Project, a nationwide effort by the organization Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

So far, more than 160 participants have been arrested in more than 30 states during peaceful sit-ins, targeting Republicans and even Democrats who have opposed the war, including Mikulski.