Forced into handcuffs before and after congressional hearings over the past two days, protesters organizing with Code Pink are fuming about the beefed-up presence of Capitol Police when contentious, high-profile officials testify on Capitol Hill.
On Thursday, officers arrested Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, when he rose from his seat to challenge Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. after the conclusion of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats. "In March 2013, you misled the Senate Intelligence Committee about the scope of NSA surveillance," Buttar said.
An officer immediately responded, blocking Buttar from entering the press area to approach witnesses in the Dirksen committee room, and telling him, "This is your only warning."
Buttar persisted, ignoring the officer.
"What do you have to say to communities of color that are so hyper-policed that we're subjected to extrajudicial assassination for selling loose cigarettes, when you can get away with perjury before the Senate?" he said, before being escorted to the back of the room and handcuffed. A fellow protester recorded the scene and pressed him to keep talking.
In a statement issued after the arrest, Buttar called the experience "a disturbing sign of our draconian times that posing that question is an alleged crime, while Clapper's lies to Congress remain unpunished and tacitly rewarded."
Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans called the previous day a "dark day for free speech" after Capitol Police arrested two activists, including co-founder Medea Benjamin, when they stood to shout at Secretary of State John Kerry, before the start of a House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“For too long, the [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] has had a dangerous stranglehold over U.S. foreign policy," Evans continued. "As gravely concerned American citizens, we have the right to bring our grievances to our government without being arrested for voicing our opinions." She called for charges to be dropped immediately "and our constitutional rights respected.”
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