Code Pink activists shown the red card at John Brennan Senate hearing
Several activists were sent from the room for their vociferous protests – and it's not the first time they've hit the headlines
Paul Harris in New York
7 February 2013
It was not as if Code Pink were trying very hard to hide.
As John Brennan prepared to begin his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, the audience behind him included a number of women wearing pink clothes, marking them out as members of the high-profile anti-war activist group.
The man who desires to be the next CIA director had not even opened his mouth before the first interruption occurred and a Code Pink supporter was removed from the room. At least three more interruptions were to follow, with some Code Pink members even waving props as they hurled insults linking Brennan's high-profile advocacy of the use of drones to strike suspected militants abroad.
The move prompted committee chair Dianne Feinstein to take the unusual step of halting the hearing, clearing the room and prohibiting Code Pink members from returning to the chamber. But Code Pink's point had already been made. The drones controversy that has dogged Brennan ever since his name was put forward to be America's top spy had followed him to the hallowed halls of the Capitol.
No doubt that will please Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who has made drone protesting one of the group's core causes. The former Green party Senate candidate has recently published a book about America's use of drones called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. She has also travelled to Pakistan to meet drones protesters there, including families of civilian victims of drone strikes.
Benjamin helped found Code Pink, which welcomes male supporters but is largely made up of women, in 2002. The group was formed to protest against the prospect of a US invasion of Iraq, and Code Pink began its days with a four-month vigil in front of the White House aimed at opposing the attack on Saddam Hussein's regime.
More than a decade later, anti-war activities have remained at the heart of Code Pink plans. Its activists, most often dressed in their trademark colour, are a frequent and visible presence at marches, political conventions and speeches by high-profile figures. As Hillary Clinton prepared for her 2008 bid for the Democratic party's nomination, Code Pink supporters dogged many of her public appearances, outraged at her support for the invasion of Iraq.
On its website, Code Pink proudly boasts of a long list of targets from right and left. "We have become famous for confronting the warmongers, whether in the halls and hearing rooms of Congress, the national conventions of both the Republicans and Democrats, George Bush's fundraisers, the publicity tours of Karl Rove, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and others – and Nancy Pelosi's house," it said.
The group has an email list of 150,000 people, and boasts 150 local chapters. There is no fee or registration to join, so the group has no official membership. It has international ties with numerous groups abroad, including the Stop the War coalition in Britain. It has also broadened its interests to pro-green policies, action in support of Palestinian civil rights and other largely left-wing issues around the world.
Some of its high-profile actions have hit the headlines. They include co-founder Jodie Evans attending a Democratic party fundraiser as a guest, and speaking personally to President Barack Obama about the plight of women in Afghanistan. They also protested at events held by the NRA in the wake of December's Newtown school shooting. In 2009, the group protested against Halloween party held at the White House by Obama, dressing up as zombie soldiers to demonstrate against overseas conflicts.
Code Pink has also held vigils outside the Walter Reed hospital where wounded soldiers are treated.