WASHINGTON — Even Medea Benjamin was surprised she managed to get into President Barack Obama’s major national security address at National Defense University on Thursday. The long-time Code Pink protestor (and HuffPost blogger) is a fixture on Capitol Hill and well known to most D.C. reporters.
“I had my head down for about two hours and was talking on the phone for about two hours. I tried to be inconspicuous. I think sometimes I must be invisible,” Benjamin said. “There were a couple of journalists that came over to talk to me, but that’s about it.”
Benjamin, 60, was escorted out of the the hall after she repeatedly interrupted Obama’s address, pressing the president on the use of drone strikes overseas, including the killing of a 16-year-old U.S. citizen.
In an interview with The Huffington Post afterward, at a Starbucks near National Defense University, Benjamin said someone had given her an invite to the speech.
“I had an invitation, somebody gave me an invitation who I’m not at liberty to disclose,” Benjamin said, calling her protest “epic” when compared to her other demonstrations.
Benjamin was wearing a pink belt and a pink watch and even drove onto the military base in a car with a Code Pink bumper sticker. While several reporters knew and recognized her as they waited to pass through security, the event’s organizers evidently didn’t. (One photographer said Benjamin’s badge indicated her first name was Susan, her given name.)
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to do anything,” Benjamin recalled. “I was prepared if I wanted to, but I thought there might be some real significant things that came out of this, and I thought, well, I’m not going to say anything if it’s a really good speech.”
Benjamin said she was led out of the room and questioned by on-site Army personnel, as well as Secret Service and FBI agents, before she was let go.
“I was very forthcoming, gave my name, Social Security number, address and everything. They asked me what my motives were and I explained it all,” she said. “It was very strange because I think when it’s the president … they are often times embarrassed to then have the media attention be that they arrested somebody for speaking out.”
“I must say, I do really appreciate that I live in a country where if you interrupt the president you don’t get beaten and tortured and thrown inside a prison for a year,” she added.
Benjamin believes similar actions would have gotten her arrested had they occurred during a congressional hearing. “I’ve been arrested so many times in Congress, it’s ridiculous,” she said.
After she had been escorted out, Obama referred to Benjamin as a “young lady.”
“I’m willing to cut that young lady interrupting me some slack, because it’s worth being passionate about,” he said. “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”
“That’s very nice,” Benjamin said, “given that I’m older than him.”