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Matsui Protest Ends In 7 Arrests
by Dan Bacher
Friday Mar 23rd, 2007 12:40 AM
Federal police arrested 7 people, including 4 veterans, at a peace protest at Representative Doris Matsui's office on Thursday.
matsuioffice_20070322_names_1.jpg
‘Peace-In’ At Representative Matsui’s Office Ends With 7 Arrests 

by Dan Bacher

Sacramento area peace advocates ended their historic 52-day “peace-in” at the office of Representative Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) on March 22 with seven people – including four veterans - getting arrested by federal officers as they attempted to read the names of people killed during the Iraq war and occupation.  

Cres Vellucci, a member of Veterans for Peace and one of those arrested, said that Rep. Matsui may be subpoenaed as a result of the arrests late Thursday. The seven were arrested for refusing to obey the orders of a federal police officer and released on their own recognizance. The trial date has not been set.

The other veterans arrested were John Reiger, George Main and Dan Delaney. Scott Verhoef Sheila Laracy, and C.T. Weber were also arrested by the Federal Protective Service.

The arrests came at the end of eight hours of reading of the names of the more than 3,200 U.S. war dead and thousands of Iraqis inside Matsui's office in a final attempt to change Matsui’s mind on voting for the $120 million supplemental funding bill to continue the Iraq war and occupation. Although Matsui repeatedly has stated she is opposed to the war, she continues to support more funding for the war.

“It is so disappointing that Rep. Matsui was given so many opportunities to do the right thing over the past 2-1/2 months – and refused,” said George Main, president of the Sacramento Chapter of Veterans for Peace and a member of the steering committee for Sacramento for Democracy, minutes after he was released from federal custody. “All I’ve heard from her is the same old line that she is supporting the troops by continuing war funding – even though voting for more funding will result only in more dead and wounded. I felt it was time to make a statement.” 

Peace advocates felt a particular sense of urgency on the last day of the protest since the House is expected to vote Friday on $100 billion new war funding bill. Matsui says she will vote for more war monies and a Rep. Nancy Pelosi amendment (HR 1591) that would extend the war by at least 18 more months or more.

“I opposed this war from the beginning and I believe we must bring our troops home soon and in a responsible way bring this war to a close,” said Matsui in a floor statement in the House on Thursday. Though acknowledging the Pelosi amendment’s flaws, Matsui said she supports HR 1591 (The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act of 2007) because she claims it “supports the battlefield needs of our troops who are fighting in Iraq while enacting a fixed timetable to bring them home.”

Peace advocates said they want the funding bill defeated outright, or approved only if troops will begin to come back to the U.S. now and be out of Iraq before the end of the year. Matsui has refused to agree to that.

The peace-in was longest occupation of its kind in U.S. history. More than 30 people participated throughout the peace-in’s last day. The peace-in started Jan.8 after members of the Sacramento Coalition to end the War decided it was time to put political pressure on Rep. Matsui to vote against funding to continue the war.

During the peace-in’s last day, the reading of the names of Iraqi and U.S. dead brought home the horrible reality of the Iraq war and occupation – a war based on a lie. Some of the participants cried as they read the names of children and others killed in the war.

“Reading the names of Iraqis and Americans killed during the war was painful,” said Karen Bernal, a State Democratic Party Executive Board member and member of Progressive Democrats of America and Sacramento for Democracy. “I felt we had a tremendous responsibility to read these names out loud because each name was somebody who was once alive, who was loved and who is forever gone – and who can’t be brought back.”

Bernal noted that 7,000 Iraqis and 200 Americans have died since January 4 when the Democrat-led Congress came into power.

“We read their names because each one was a real person that didn’t deserve to die from shrapnel, bullets and bombs,” said Debra Reiger of the Peace and Freedom Party. “They deserve to be recognized – and it’s time to stop the killing.”

Julie Coleman, a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps at Walter Reed Hospital during the Vietnam War, was visibly moved by reading the names.

“I’m here reading these names today because I’m a veteran,” she said. “My husband was in Vietnam and he came back an empty shell. War is forever. In war, death becomes your bride – that’s what happened to my husband. The worst thing about war is trying to get the stench of death off you.”

Unfortunately, Congress people like Doris Matsui, insulated in their offices and the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C. don’t seem to understand what war is really all about, unlike the veterans who participated in the peace-in.

The peace-in drew a broad base of support from veterans groups, religious leaders, northern California labor leaders and rank and file workers, senior organizations and peace and justice groups. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Fr. Roy Bourgeois of SOA Watch, Alan Benjamin of the San Francisco Labor County, Fred Short from the American Indian Movement and others came to Sacramento to support the local activists.

"The Democratic leadership is approving Bush's request to continue the war on Iraq," summed up Bernal. “The bill backed by Speaker of the House Pelosi and Matsui allows Bush to waive all the supposed restrictions, so in effect they are meaningless. This bill will keep the war going until the November 2008 election and beyond."

A news conference will be held Friday, March 23 at 10 a.m. in front of the Federal Courthouse (5th & I Streets) in Sacramento to talk about the arrests and Matsui's Intention to vote Friday to extend the war in Iraq. For more information, call Cres Vellucci, Sacramento Coalition to End the War, 916-996-9170, http://www.sacendwar.org.

§Die-In #2
by Dan Bacher Friday Mar 23rd, 2007 12:40 AM
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Here's a photo from Monday's die-in in front of the federal building in Sacramento on Monday.

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