Protesters Persist; Mikulski's Best Withdrawal Offer: April 2008 - Southern Maryland Headline News

Protesters Persist; Mikulski's Best Withdrawal Offer: April 2008

WASHINGTON - Three of the four Maryland anti-war protesters arrested Feb. 27 in Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office for unlawful entry, walked out of D.C. Superior Court Tuesday after their arraignment and headed straight back to the scene of their arrests.

Kristin Sundell, 34, of Baltimore; Stephen Lane, 66, of Bethesda; Jean Athey, 61, of Brookville; and Peter Perry, 37, of Derwood were arrested for failing to leave Mikulski's office at the 6 p.m. closing time.

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 defendants said. But in the meantime, they will continue to return to Capitol Hill to appeal for their cause.

"If they would promise to stop the supplemental funding of the war, we wouldn't go back," Sundell said as she waited for McCarthy to call her name.

Sundell was the only one of those in court Tuesday who didn't join the 20-some protesters gathered in Mikulski's office on Capitol Hill at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Organizer Gordon Clark said he planned to occupy the office until Mikulski met the groups' demands or he was arrested in the same fashion as Lane, Sundell, Athey and Perry.

Melissa Schwartz, Mikulski's communications director, said the Capitol Hill office will not be closing at 6, "so they can camp out here if they want to."

Mikulski, target of two protests in February and one so far in March, has not been the only official visited by unhappy constituents demanding an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The protesters occupied the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, last Thursday and plan to return soon.

"We'd like to do the whole congressional delegation," said one of the four arrested protesters, Jean Athey.

Other members from Athey's group did get a chance to visit the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, after they were turned away from Mikulski's Greenbelt office Tuesday afternoon, said protester Pat O'Leary.

That visit resulted in an appointment with Hoyer's aides Friday on Capitol Hill.

At issue is the supplemental funding bill submitted by the Bush administration and released to representatives Monday. It is expected to contain billions of dollars to fund the Iraq War. The anti-war activists contend the war should not be funded in any form.

Mikulski, who voted against authorizing the war, pledged Tuesday to support the additional funding request because it provides essentials for troops on the ground and once they return to the U.S.

Mikulski on Tuesday expressed her support for a binding joint congressional resolution (S.J. Res. 9) that requires the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, with a phased redeployment within 120 days of the proposal's enactment. The resolution will be debated on the Senate floor this week.

An anti-war stance is insufficient to stop 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 Tuesday morning and are encamped in front of her California home to urge the speaker "to be a leader and lead us out of the Iraq war," said CodePink member Nancy Mancias.

The CodePink activists and the Maryland protesters are part of a national movement, the Voices for Creative Nonviolence's Occupation Project, which began Feb. 5 in correspondence with talks on the emergency supplemental bill.

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

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