escalating the antiwar movement

Fabio and Michael

Antiwar activists die-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, backed by veterans and surrounded by Capitol police. Read our previous entries in this week’s “field work” posts on Code Pink, the UFPJ/ANSWER schism, ANSWER’s attempts to lobby Congress, counter movement development, counter-recruitment tactics, and brokerage in the movement. Check with us later as we post more of our thoughts on the movement.

Today was a day of nonviolent direct action on Capitol Hill. At 11am, a group of activists from the National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance, the Declaration of Peace, and their affinity groups held a die-in inside the Capitol building. They attempted to enter the Capitol Rotunda, but retreated to an exhibit hall when they were headed off by Capitol police. Before dying-in by falling to the ground, each person read the name of U.S. service member or Iraqi civilian whom was killed during the occupation of Iraq. Approximately 40 arrests were made. A similar action took place outside on the Capitol steps at noon, though no arrests were made there.

Antiwar activsits meet with a foreign policy aide to Senator Barbara Mikulski after occupying her office.

These actions came toward the end of a week of intensified actions by the antiwar movement. On Tuesday, Grassroots America led a coalition of groups that “occupied” congressional offices. They showed up with a group of about 25 people and demanded to see the member or a legislative assistant, despite not having scheduled appointments. In some cases, they received an audience (such as in the offices of Senators Barbara Mikulski and Dianne Feinstein), but were turned away by others (such as the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi). Code Pink pushed the envelope with the Capitol police during its People’s March Inside Congress on the same day. The upshot of this week is a marked intensification of efforts to pressure Congress to stop funding the occupation of Iraq. Actions are not only coming more frequently and with better organization, but the tactics employed are substantially more confrontational and disruptive in nature.

An important question for the antiwar movement is whether confrontational tactics are more or less effective than routine tactics in achieving their objectives? For example research on African-American student protests has shown that under certain conditions, disruptive protests may make it harder for sympathetic authorities to act on behalf of the protesting group. Along these lines, professional peace lobbyists may find that their relationships with key legislative staff are compromised when their allies take the disruptive path. However, Erik Leaver of the Institute for Policy Studies argues that the Iraq issue may have reached the point where confrontation is a necessary tactic. In an interview yesterday, he noted that the disruption sometimes counterproductive during the ‘policy’ phase of a debate — that is, when legislators’ positions can still be moved. But now that the Iraq conflict is in the ‘political’ phase of debate — that is, legislators’ policy positions seem to be fairly well solidified – disruption may be the only way to get their attention. Indeed, if weeks such as this one begin to be more common in the capital, the movement may begin to sway more congressional fence-sitters in their direction.



Written by fabiorojas

September 21, 2007 at 6:56 pm

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  1. […] blog. Here is Melody’s website. For previous blog posts on our antiwar research, click here. « […]


  2. […] previous “ethnographic blogging,” click here. For papers, published and in progress, click here. Click here for “social movements: the […]


  3. Right On!



    September 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

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