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Codepink Entertains Jeh Johnson’s Neighbors Codepink Entertains Jeh Johnson’s Neighbors

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Defense

Codepink Entertains Jeh Johnson’s Neighbors

Anti-war group projects drone movie on DHS nominee’s empty Georgetown house.

A handful of activists showed up with a message.(Ben Terris)

photo of Ben Terris
November 11, 2013

About a dozen activists gathered on a quiet Georgetown street, eating popcorn, drinking hot cider, and projecting a movie about drone warfare onto the side of Jeh Johnson's brick house. The invitation for the event had said—without a trace of irony—that the goal was to "shed light" on the relatively obscure nominee for the Homeland Security Department.

"We want to publically shame him, and expose him for what he is," said Alli McCracken, a spokeswoman for the organizing group Codepink.

And who exactly is he? During his tenure as general counsel at the Defense Department, Johnson helped draft the legal justification for weaponized drone use. His job as the head of DHS—the confirmation hearing for which starts Wednesday— won't have anything to do with killer drones, and some liberals even like the guy for a report he wrote that preceded the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

 

But neither of those facts would dissuade these peace activists from turning his home into a blurry drive-in theater (and while there were plenty of stickers that read "Make Out, Not War," there was a lot less funny business than your typical drive-in).

The Johnson family was nowhere to be seen, the speculation being that they had sequestered themselves in a nearby hotel. The event didn't draw much of a crowd, other than the four cop cars, but a few curious passersby and dog walkers did pop out to see what the pseudo-excitement was about.

"We want the neighbors to know who he is," said McCracken while her cohorts held up blue-lit letters spelling out "No Killer Drones" that flickered like an old motel vacancy sign.

If the goal was to get the neighborhood worked up about the family on the corner, they weren't getting all that much traction.

"I live cross the street, and my bike got stolen out from under my porch," said one neighbor. "Best part of having the head of DHS across the street is that probably won't happen again.

"I just feel bad for the family," said another neighbor walking her dog whose name (this is not a joke) was Kamikaze. "She's great. He's not as friendly, but they have beautiful children."

"I'm just a guy trying to enjoy a glass of wine on the corner," said another.

The activists here admit that keeping Johnson from getting confirmed may be a quixotic battle, but say the point for being out in the cold, projecting a movie on an empty house, is that there aren't many opportunities to make a statement about what they consider unjust fighting tactics. Plus, it was fun to boo at the screen when Obama came on ("He's lying!" "Show us your numbers!") and to cheer at the footage of Codepink's Medea Benjamin getting dragged out of an event.

"I'm happy just to make his life a bit uncomfortable as long has he is making other people's lives uncomfortable," said Jeremy Bingham, who comes to Codepink as an intern by way of having been kicked out of Oberlin College for shooting his buddy with a BB gun. (He would gotten away with it if only he had a drone, he admits). 

Not All Drones Are So Darn Scary
Search, rescue, and recovery operations, and pizza delivery, make some of the remote-piloted aircraft in D.C.'s drone convention more angel than demon. (Reena Flores / National Journal)

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