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Medea Benjamin

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Template:Infobox Person Medea Benjamin (born Susan Benjamin on September 10, 1952) is an American political activist.

The Los Angeles Times has described her as "one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement," and in 1999, San Francisco Magazine included her on their "power list" of the "60 Players Who Rule the Bay Area." In 2005, she was nominated as one of 1,000 exceptional women from around the world to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the project "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize."Template:Fact

Early lifeEdit

Benjamin grew up in Long Island, a self-described "nice Jewish girl."[1] During her freshman year at Tufts University, she renamed herself after the Greek mythological character Medea. She received a master's degree in public health from Columbia University and a second master's degree in economics from the New School for Social Research.

Benjamin worked for 10 years as an economist and nutritionist in Latin America and Africa for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Institute for Food and Development Policy. Benjamin spent four years in Cuba, and has authored three books on the country.

Organizations Edit

With her husband, Kevin Danaher and colleague Kirsten Moller, Benjamin co-founded the San Francisco-based NGO Global Exchange, which advocates "fair trade" alternatives to corporate globalization. She is a co-founder of the feminist anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace, which advocates an end to the Iraq War, the prevention of future wars, and social justice. Benjamin has also been involved with the anti-war organization United for Peace and Justice.

In 2000, Benjamin ran for the United States Senate on the Green Party ticket from California, basing her campaign on such issues as a living wage, education, and universal healthcare; she garnered 326,828 votes for 3 percent of the vote [2]. Since then she has remained active in the Green Party and has also supported efforts by the Progressive Democrats of America.[3] [4]. She is a member of the Liberty Tree Board of Advisers.

Protest actions Edit

File:Medea Benjamin at 2007 State of the Union protest.jpg
  • In 2002, Benjamin interrupted the testimony of Donald Rumsfeld in a Congressional committee room. She and another woman chanted "Inspections, not war" and were removed quickly by security officials. After the incident, Rumsfeld said that Iraq had expelled the weapons inspectors, and remarked that in Saddam Hussein's Iraq there was no free expression.
  • On August 23, 2002, Benjamin interrupted President George W. Bush's speech in Stockton, California by shouting from the Memorial Civic Auditorium balcony and revealing a white shirt with "No war on Iraq" written in red. Bush paused and the attendees chanted "USA" while she was removed by security.
  • At the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin was removed from the convention floor and thrown out of the Fleet Center by police after unfurling a banner which read "End the Occupation! Bring the Troops Home Now!" She subsequently stood with other activists in the "free speech zone" set up at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, dressed as the Statue of Liberty with duct tape over her mouth to express her disapproval at the suppression of protests at the convention.
  • At the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, Benjamin was removed from the convention floor and escorted from Madison Square Garden by police after unfurling a banner which read "Pro-Life: Stop the killing in Iraq" during a speech by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • In 2005, Benjamin and other members of Code Pink managed to obtain VIP access to Bush's second inauguration. During Bush's speech, they unfurled banners that read "No War" and "Bush Mandate: Bring the Troops Home" before being arrested.
  • On May 27, 2005, Benjamin and three others interrupted a speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall that was hosted by the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. The four recreated an image of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, in which a hooded prisoner stood with his arms outstretched attached to electric wires. Rice initially continued her speech on American foreign policy under Bush, but paused when the protesters shouted "Stop the torture. Stop the killing. U.S. out of Iraq," as police led them out of the auditorium.
  • On July 26, 2006, Benjamin interrupted Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during his speech to a joint session of the United States Congress by repeatedly shouting from the balcony "Iraqis want the troops to leave. Bring them home now."[5]
  • On January 29, 2007, Benjamin led a second banner-unfurling protest in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington DC. This was a repetition of an action that took place on September 22, 2006. The Code Pink shoe display was set up in the center of the building's atrium, and Code Pink members ran all around the balconies unfurling banners that protested the war and called for impeachment of the Bush administration. Benjamin then led the group in chants of "Stop funding the war" and "Troops out now". No arrests were made. The group peacefully dispersed as police began low-key crowd control procedures in preparation for a mass arrest. Police closed public access to the building down for a short period of time afterward.
  • On December 4, 2007 she was arrested at gunpoint by plainclothes police in Lahore, Pakistan, detained by the ISI for eight hours, and deported after protesting the house arrest of lawyers (including Aitzaz Ahsan) in Lahore, Pakistan.[1][2]

Controversy Edit

Benjamin has been criticized from both the left and the right.

Support for Cuba and Venezuela Edit

Benjamin has drawn conservative criticism for her support of Hugo Chavez and her attacks on the U.S. embargo of Fidel Castro's Cuba. Conservative writer David Horowitz's FrontPageMag has attacked her as "a long-time Castro acolyte," and written: Template:Cquote

Benjamin has said that the charge in sections of the U.S. media that Hugo Chavez had cracked down on free speech and civil rights in Venezuela was a "myth."[6] In an interview with Tucker Carlson on MSNBC, Benjamin was asked, "Do you want to revise that given the news that Hugo Chavez has closed the last nationally broadcast opposition television station for criticizing him?" Benjamin replied that it was not true and that what happened was that Chavez simply did not renew the license because the station "participated in a coup against a democratically elected government, his [Chavez's] government." Benjamin also said "Peru recently did not renew a license. Uruguay didn‘t renew a license. Why do you hold Venezuela to a different standard?" [6] Carlson responded that a 360 page Venezuelan government published book accused RCTV, the last independent television station closed by Chavez, as showing lack of respect for authorities and institutions. Carlson asked Benjamin, "I would think, as a self described liberal, you would stand up for the right of people to, quote, challenge authorities and institutions. And yet, you are apologizing for the squelching of minority views. Why could that be?" Benjamin replied that, "They [RCTV] falsified information. They got people out on the street. They falsified footage that showed pro Chavez supporters killing people, which did not happen. They refuse to cover any of the pro Chavez demonstrations."[6]

WTO protest violence Edit

Benjamin is unpopular among some in the anti-globalization movement due to remarks during 1999's anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle which seemed to suggest that "anarchists" who engaged in property destruction should have been arrested by the police. Benjamin herself says that this is not the correct interpretation:

Template:Cquote

To protest Benjamin's criticism of these tactics at the Seattle demonstrations, as well as other stated allegations, an anarchist member of the Bakers without Borders collective threw a pie at her at the 2007 US Social Forum in Atlanta.[7]

Anybody But Bush Edit

Benjamin has been criticized by some Greens for her support for "Anybody But Bush" in 2004. Explaining why she supported this movement, she said in regard to her support for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election: Template:Cquote

Todd Chretien, a leading member of the International Socialist Organization, wrote, in "A Reply to Norman Soloman and Medea Benjamin" on Counterpunch: Template:Cquote

Marla Ruzicka Edit

Benjamin had a falling out with her former close friend, San Francisco Bay Area activist Marla Ruzicka, later killed in Iraq in a widely-publiced suicide bombing, over Ruzicka's decision to work with the U.S. military to secure compensation for the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. Benjamin has said: Template:Cquote

Books by Medea BenjaminEdit

  • Benedita Da Silva: An Afro-Brazilian Woman's Story of Politics and Love (1997). With Benedita Da Silva and Maisa Mendonca. Institute for Food and Development Policy.
  • Bridging the Global Gap: A Handbook to Linking Citizens of the First and Third Worlds (1989). With Andrea Freedman. Global Exchange Seven Locks Press.
  • Cuba: Talking About Revolution: Conversations with Juan Antonio Blanco (1996). With Juan Antonio Blanco. Inner Ocean Publishing.
  • Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado (1989). Harper Perennial.
  • Greening of the Revolution: Cuba's Experiment with Organic Agriculture (1995). With Peter Rossett. Ocean Press.
  • How to Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (2005). As editor, with Jodie Evans. Inner Ocean Publishing.
  • I, senator: How, together, we transformed the state of California and the United States (2000). Green Press.
  • No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today (1989). With Joseph Collins and Michael Scott. Princeton University Press.
  • The Peace Corps and More: 175 Ways to Work, Study and Travel at Home & Abroad (1997). With Miya Rodolfo-Sioson. Global Exchange Seven Locks Press.
  • "Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism", co-edited with Jodie Evans (2006)

See alsoEdit

References Edit

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External links Edit

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