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Hastert Slams Door on Vets

Hastert Slams Door on Vets

Submitted by Mike Hersh on Wed, 2006-03-15

Karen Bradley and I are standing outside of Rep. Dennis Hastert's office, where a peace group, the Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( are reading aloud the names of the war dead.

There is a bit of consternation and confusion--staffers are not quite getting it yet.

The personnel in the office went from mildly polite to visibly agitated. They apparently called the Capitol Police immediately; within moments one, then three officers appeared.


Scott from Chicago IL was taking photos of the group inside Hastert's office; when he backed up to get a full shot, the staffers shut the door on him.

There is a group of "suits" waiting in the hallway with us. They are currently amused.


The office occupiers have left Hastert's office, with the exception of Jeff Leys, who decided to remain and risk arrest to continue the appeal to Mr. Hastert.

The staffers insisted that the delegation return when they had an appointment. I explained they had traveled to be here to discuss the supplemental authorization for the war.

I pointed out that some of them had come from Illinois. Jeff Leys explained that he was from Chicago, just outside Rep. Hastert's district, but he was there to speak with Rep. Hastert, "the third most powerful politician in the country."

All insisted that time was of the essence because the supplemental is due to be voted on today and tomorrow. Jeff Leys and Cynthia Banas decided to remain inside the office until they could have an audience with the Speaker.

They are currently on a 40-day fast, due to end soon.


Mr. Leys is being arrested and the names of the war dead will be read as he is led away.

The names of the dead are being read; the "suits" appear to be reading their blackberries. They are less amused.


This was the media advisory which was sent out very selectively prior to this action:

Washington -- War opponents will visit Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s office, 235 Cannon House Office Building, today at 2pm, and stay to read the names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war, until they meet with Rep. Hastert and he pledges to vote against the "supplemental" spending bill scheduled for a House vote later today.

The House is expected to vote this afternoon or evening on a White House request for an additional $67,000,000,000 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Ferner and Jeff Leys, members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), will read from published lists of war dead, and refuse to leave until getting Hastert’s committment to oppose more funding for the war.

As part of VCNV’s "Winter of Our Discontent" campaign, the two, from Toledo and Chicago respectively, have conducted a water-only fast and daily vigil at the Capitol since February 15, the third anniversary of global protests against the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. The fast is scheduled to end on the anniversary of the invasion, March 20. For health reasons, Leys started eating on Monday of this week. Ferner continues on the fast.

For more information on the Winter of Our Discontent activities see: .

Bios for some of the Winter of Our Discontent fasters are below.

Jeff Leys, 41, is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He traveled to Iraq in February 2003 with Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign of civil disobedience which existed to end U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq. He returned to Iraq in November 2003 with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Prior to joining VCNV, Leys worked as a labor representative for SEIU District 1199 in Wisconsin and for AFT in Kansas. Leys participated in a Plowshares action in 1985, serving two years in prison for nonviolently disarming a Navy transmitter system (since closed) in northern Wisconsin which served an integral role in U.S. first strike nuclear strategy.

His work has also included: advocacy for Native American treaty rights; issues of homelessness; nuclear weapons; and U.S. involvement in Central America in the 1980’s.

Mike Ferner, 55, has served as an independent member of the Toledo City Council; organized for the public employees’ union, AFSCME; and worked as communications director for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), and for POCLAD, the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy. He traveled twice to Iraq, with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation just prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003, and in 2004 for two months as a freelance writer. His book about those trips, Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq, (Praeger) is due out in August, 2006. He served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman during Vietnam, received an Honorable Discharge as a conscientious objector, and is a member of Veterans For Peace.

Cynthia Banas, retired librarian and longtime UNICEF volunteer, lived in Iraq for a total of 11 months between 2001 and 2003. A member of the Iraq Peace Team whose goal was to prevent the invasion of Iraq and report back to colleagues the situation on the ground, Banas lived in Baghdad before, during and after the three-week Shock and Awe terror bombing. She witnessed first hand the efforts of peace people who came to Baghdad from countries world-wide to attempt to prevent the USA attack upon Iraq. She witnessed first hand the invasion, the looting and the ongoing cruel occupation and the suffering of the Iraqi people and the beginning of the resistance during the autumn of 2003.

Ed Kinane, 62, formerly worked on Wall Street. In the 70s he taught high school in Kenya (in a remote one-room Quaker school) and college anthropology in Seattle. In the late 80s and early 90s Ed worked with Peace Brigades International accompanying threatened human rights workers – in Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti and Sri Lanka — to help protect them from death squads. Since the mid 90s Ed has been a persistent critic of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, GA. For his nonviolent efforts against the SOA he has twice gone to federal prison serving a total of 14 months. In 2003 he spent five months in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness prior to, during and after the U.S. invasion. Ed has long been active with the Syracuse Peace Council. A long-time conscientious objector to the gas-guzzling internal combustion engine, Ed avoids driving and has never owned a car.

Joel Gulledge, 26, grew up in Bruce, MS, and studies Sociology. Over the years Joel has volunteered at homeless and battered women’s shelters, worked with the Southern Baptist Convention in a Boston outreach program for youth and homeless, organized benefit concerts, and is a regular volunteer with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, SUSTAIN, and Food Not Bombs. From December 2004 to January 2005, Joel traveled the Occupied Palestinian Territories with the Memphis Peace Team. He picked olives, planted olive trees in demolished groves, confronted Israeli checkpoints, and hung out with ordinary families. He then joined the Wheels of Justice speaking tour to bring these stories of occupation, nonviolence and dignity in the face of humiliation and violence back to the US. Joel is currently a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.


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