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Thursday, October 25, 2007

blood on rice

Anti-war protester accosts Rice at House hearing

BY BETH MURTAGH | beth.murtagh@newsday.com
October 25, 2007

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IPB Image

WASHINGTON - An anti-war protester ambushed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a House hearing Wednesday, thrusting "blood"-stained hands in her face and accusing her of having the "blood of millions of Iraqis on your hands" before being dragged away by police.

"War criminal! War criminal!" bellowed Desiree Ali-Fairooz, 51, a former teacher from Arlington, Texas, after a security guard grabbed her wrists and another officer led her out of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The incident caused chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) to order the removal of several other CodePink members, an anti-war group with a semi-permanent protest presence on Capitol Hill.

Capitol police said Ali-Fairooz was charged with assault on a federal officer and three other counts. Police deflected questions about how she was able to get close enough to Rice to confront her, but insisted that the incident did not constitute a security breach.

"Because it's an open hearing and the building is open to the public, anyone can come in," said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman. "However, if anyone is breaking the law, the Capitol Police will take appropriate action."

She said police have a variety of procedures to deal with protesters and thwart personal attacks on high-ranking officials, but refused to say what they are or how they came into play Wednesday.

The incident provided a startling moment at the start of a hearing featuring Rice testifying about the Middle East.

Witnesses sit alone at a table at the room's front, facing House members, with their backs to the audience. There are no barriers between spectators, witnesses and House members. Metal detectors at the building's entrance screen for weapons and hazardous chemicals.

Wednesday's confrontation seemed to happen in an instant. Rice entered the hearing room from a side door with Lantos, an aide and State Department security. Ali-Fairooz strode up the aisle and met Rice at the table with arms outstretched, moving her hands toward Rice's face but apparently not touching her.

Four other protesters at the hearing were charged with other disruptions.

Rice appeared unfazed by the confrontation, chit-chatting with others as guards hauled away another CodePink protester.

After she was taken outside the hearing room, Ali-Fairooz smeared her painted hands on the hallway wall. A crew of Capitol painters was dispatched immediately to paint over the marks.

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