Free Cindy Sheehan!
A lawyer for Cindy Sheehan and three other protesters busted Monday outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations says they were roughed up during the arrests and then held overnight. They were finally released from jail late Tuesday morning.
"It's an absolute disgrace that they weren't given desk appearance tickets," said defense attorney Robert Gottlieb, who complained they were held for some 21 hours.
Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed in a battle with Shia insurgents in April 2004, and Missy Beattie, whose nephew, Marine Lance Corporal Chase Comley, was killed by a suicide car-bomber a year later, were arrested with two members of the anti-war group Code Pink at around 2 p.m. on Monday after they refused to leave the plaza of the midtown office building where the U.S. Mission is housed.
They had marched there with a group of Iraqi women to present the U.S. Mission with a petition demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Sheehan and the three activists were charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. Gottlieb accused the NYPD of further penalizing the women by putting them through Central Booking rather than releasing them from the precinct where they were initially held.
"It's been a new policy to hold people for resisting arrest," said Gottlieb, who accused police of adding the charge after the fact. "They were definitely singled out."
Detective Joseph Cavitolo, a spokesperson for the NYPD, said the women were charged with resisting arrest because they had locked arms and did not go willingly. He said Sheehan and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin did not qualify for desk-appearance tickets because they are out-of-state residents, and added, "There may have been other factors as to why they were held."
Gottlieb said Sheehan injured her arm during the arrest and requested medical attention at the precinct, though he did not know how serious the injury was.
Reverend Patricia Ackerman, a Code Pink member from Nyack, also reportedly suffered a wrenched arm and bruises.
A central question remains: Why were there any arrests at all?
State Department official said they offered to meet with the women as they marched into the plaza and accused Sheehan and the others of orchestrating their busts as a media stunt.
"When the group showed up, we told them an individual or small group of individuals could come up," says Richard Grenell a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission. "But they chose not to do that. They wanted a media event downstairs for the cameras."
Organizers insisted the arrests were never planned, and that they made a stand only after the US Mission refused to accept their "Women's Call for Peace" petition.
"We already had tons of media," said Andrea Buffa of Global Exchange, an activist group that works closely with Code Pink.
"We didn't need the arrests. All we were trying to do was to get them to accept this petition, and they wouldn't take it," adds Buffa, who maintains they spoke to someone at the U.S. Mission to notify them of their plans just before the march set off.
"People are frustrated that their government is not listening," Buffa explained, when asked why Sheehan and the others chose to be arrested rather than simply walk away. "George Bush won't meet with Cindy Sheehan, the US State Department won't let Iraqi women from our delegation whose husbands and children were killed by US forces into the country, and now they won't even accept our petition."
Earlier in the day, Code Pink activists and a group of Iraqi women had sought to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the Security Council to discuss their demands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and an international peacekeeping force to prevent civil war in Iraq.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to meet with delegations of Iraqi and Afghan women in Washington on Wednesday, International Women's Day, to honor their political achievements.
But activists say Rice won't meet with the delegation of Iraqi women who are touring the U.S. as part of Code Pink's "Women Say No to War" campaign.
"They don't want to hear from the Iraqis who are against the war, even though they are the majority opinion," says Buffa.
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