The Power of Pink

The CodePink movement spreads beyond anti-war rallies

| January / February 2004

At the height of last October's California recall election, political rallies began to sport a pinkish hue as activists from local CodePink groups (See 'Think Pink,' Utne March/April 2003) protested Arnold's alleged habit of fondling women. In San Rafael, about 30 pink-clad protesters set up a 'grope-free zone' near a transit stop, and at a Schwarzenegger campaign rally, dozens more CodePink activists clashed with security officials, who tried to deny them entry to the event.

Less than a year after first splashing pink all over the sidewalk in front of the White House during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, CodePink Women for Peace has taken root in spots far beyond Washington, D.C. and expanded its agenda far beyond the Iraq war.

CodePink chapters have sprouted in nearly a hundred U.S. cities as well as in seven countries, including China and India. And while much of the movement's activity has centered on anti-war issues (they've even drafted a peace platform), local activists are also raising funds for Iraqi children, creating peace-oriented bookmobile tours, organizing against FCC policies and the PATRIOT Act, working to shut down a New York nuclear power plant, and campaigning to give George W. Bush a big pink slip. The group has also been an active force in the fight against the FCC's attempts to increase media consolidation.

'The idea was definitely to motivate folks at the grassroots level,' says Victoria Cunningham, CodePink's national coordinator. Indeed, the decentralized movement has generated a veritable cottage industry of entrepreneurial initiatives, including pink clothing, posters, and flags, which encourage women to spread the message of peace by whatever means they choose.

Cunningham notes that the gradual shifting from anti-war actions to other issues is simply an 'elaboration' of the year-old movement. She says she's not concerned about how such a shift might effect the generally positive media attention the group has received since its anti-war protest at the White House a year ago. 'If worse comes to worse, we end up reaching new audiences,' she says.

Besides, if the past year is any indication, there's no real way to contain or define CodePink, which by its nature is diffuse, leaderless, and contagious. It is bound to show up in many other forms in the months ahead.

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