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Swanson: Throwing Stuff Over the White House Fence

Throwing Stuff Over the White House Fence

By David Swanson

On Wednesday, Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Lennox Yearwood, and about 50 other activists for peace met up on the sidewalk in front of the White House. I brought along a box containing 6,000-some pages of names and comments: about 80,000 names with cities and states, about half of them with comments beside them. These were the names of people who have signed the petition at The media gathered around, and Cindy read the petition out loud:

"Dear President Bush and Vice President Cheney,

"We write to you from all over the United States and all over the world to urge you to obey both international and U.S. law, which forbid aggressive attacks on other nations. We oppose your proposal to attack Iran. Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, just as Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons. If Iran had such weapons, that would not justify the use of force, any more than any other nation would be justified in launching a war against the world's greatest possessor of nuclear arms, the United States. The most effective way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be to closely monitor its nuclear energy program, and to improve diplomatic relations -- two tasks made much more difficult by threatening to bomb Iranian territory. We urge you to lead the way to peace, not war, and to begin by making clear that you will not commit the highest international crime by aggressively attacking Iran."

We took the box of petition signatures over to the gate and asked the guard to accept it on behalf of the President. He asked Cindy to read the petition to him, which she did. Then he left and came back a few times, claiming that he was trying to find the proper person to accept it, but more likely waiting for more guards and Park Service police to show up.

Eventually we got tired of waiting. We handed a stack of pages to everyone in the crowd and asked them to stick them through the fence. Pages began piling up all over the White House driveway and front yard. Then a line of police officers stepped in the way and blocked the fence. So we began throwing pages, about 50 double-sided sheets at a time, over their heads and over the fence. This had the effect of scattering them more widely on the other side. I hope whoever had to pick up all those pieces of paper is aware whose administration destroyed the right to overtime pay, and I hope they read some of the comments. I read thousands of them. Many were angry. Many were polite. Most were passionate and pleading. Some were concise: "Iraq was our first mistake; don't let Iran be our last." Others went on for pages. People poured their souls out trying to educate and reform our President and Vice President. Instead they ended up decorating the White House lawn.

Here's what the Associated Press had to say about this event:

"Activist Cindy Sheehan led about 50 protesters to a White House gate Wednesday to deliver anti-war petitions she said were signed by 80,000 Americans. The California woman, whose son was killed in Iraq more than two years ago, joined the protesters in hailing the outcome of Tuesday's elections and chanting 'Stop the War' outside the White House gate.

"'They have to take (the petitions); it's our First Amendment right,' said Sheehan, who waited about 15 minutes at the gate with other protesters before tossing the petitions over the fence. 'It was taking too long for them to decide whether to accept them or not, so we just delivered them.'…

"…Wednesday's protest came as Republicans lost control of the House and the White House announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 'He's being offered as a sacrificial lamb,' said Sheehan, adding that she would not stop protesting until American forces are out of Iraq…

"…Sheehan and other protesters said the outcome of Tuesday's House race - and the gains in the Senate - indicated that Americans are questioning the costs of U.S. military actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The petitions tossed over the White House fence were presented as an open letter to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, opposing use of military force to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

'Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, just as Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons,' the petitions said. A U.S. Park Police spokesman said officers moved the protesters away from gates near Secret Service guard stations, but there were no arrests."

If you have not yet signed the petition, you still can at

You can also sign one addressed to Congress (which might even listen to you) at

Late Wednesday afternoon Cindy decided to lead a sit-in right in front of the White House, and then – finally -- the Park Service arrested her. The Associated Press changed the lede to its article to read as follows:

"Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Wednesday as she led about 50 protesters to a White House gate to deliver anti-war petitions."

Not quite accurate. The petitions had been delivered several hours before the arrest. But what the heck, it probably got more editors to pick up the story. Thanks, again, Cindy!


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