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Obama and Romney Iowa Campaign Offices Occupied by Peace Activists

Third day of nonviolent resistance to Iraq occupation during Iowa presidential primary

January 2, 2008

Des Moines – Opponents of the occupation of Iraq today occupied the Iowa campaign headquarters of presidential candidates U.S. Senator Barak Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, waiting for a response to a letter requesting them to oppose any more spending for the war or occupation and foreswear an attack on Iran.

Eight people were arrested at Obama’s Iowa campaign headquarters and four at Romney’s, in this, the third day of such nonviolent “direct actions” organized by “Seasons Of Discontent: A Presidential Occupation Project” (SODAPOP) since the presidential primary season began in Iowa late last year.

Explaining why Senator Obama’s office was targeted, Voices for Creative Nonviolence co-director, Dan Pearson, pointed to the Illinois Senator’s consistent support for war funding until a May, 2007 supplemental funding vote “which everyone knew was going to fail anyway. Even his proposed Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007 wasn’t really anti-war. It allows for thousands of U.S. troops to stay in Iraq and others to be deployed to Afghanistan and other countries in the region when the only place they belong is back here.”

Pearson said the SODAPOP campaign has not yet received a response to a letter delivered to Obama last October, asking him to pledge to completely withdraw from Iraq within 100 days of assuming office; halt all military actions against Iraq and Iran; fund the rebuilding of Iraq as well as health, education and infrastructure needs in the U.S.; and provide “…the highest quality health care, education and jobs training benefits for veterans of our country’s Armed Services.”

“Today we will visit his Iowa headquarters and ask him to publicly pledge to fulfill those demands and become a true antiwar candidate,” Pearson concluded.

Another SODAPOP participant, Brian Terrell, Director of the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines, said that as of yesterday he was ambivalent about which candidate’s office to occupy, “but now I see this statement from (Ohio Congressman Dennis) Kucinich which I think is really irresponsible, asking his supporters to make Barak Obama their second choice…that they both stand for change. But what kind of change is he talking about? Leaving 40-60,000 troops in Iraq? Leaving on the table the bombing of Iran? Asking Iowans to support increased military spending? I hope our action here counters the message Kucinich is putting out (about Obama).”

Spokesperson Mona Shaw reported that at Obama’s office Kathy Kelly, 55, Chicago; Dicki Andrews, 63, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Diane Haugesag, 48, Minneapolis; David Hovee, 37 and Tom Roddy, 76 of Evanston, Illinois; Dan Pearson, 26, Chicago; Brian Terrell, 50, Maloy, Iowa and John Tuzcu, 23, Des Moines were arrested and charged with trespassing. She also said that arrested at Romney’s headquarters and charged with trespassing were Chris Gaunt, 51, a farmer from Grinnell, Iowa; Ed Bloomer, 63, Des Moines; Janice Sevre-Duszynska 57, Nicholasville, Kentucky; and Suzanne Sheridan, 31, Chicago.

Asked what kind of welcome the demonstrators received at each office, independent photographer Mauro Heck said, “The Romney people were friendlier than at Obama’s actually. They received the demonstrators about as warmly as one could expect, but at Obama’s office they blocked the door at first.”

Independent journalist, Michael Gillespie reported that while he was covering the occupations he saw only one U.S. news outlet, a Des Moines TV station. “German, British, Italian and Japanese press were there, but no others from the U.S.”

The Romney and Obama Iowa headquarters were each contacted for comment, but campaign spokespersons were unavailable.

Two days ago, three SODAPOP organizers occupied and were arrested at former governor Mike Huckabee’s Des Moines office, and in November a total of 18 were arrested at the Iowa campaign headquarters of Senator Hillary Clinton and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Ferner is an independent journalist from Ohio - www.mikeferner.org.