WASHINGTON – Antiwar demonstrators took to the suites Wednesday, flooding U.S. senators’ inboxes, phone and fax lines to protest a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said her office got about 750 calls Wednesday — more than one per minute — compared to the 100 to 150 constituent phone calls the office receives on a typical day.
“We have three people answering phones at a time,” spokeswoman Amy Hagovsky said. “People are calling in encouraging Ms. Mikulski to not support a war.”
A spokesman for Maryland’s other senator, Democrat Paul Sarbanes, could not be reached Wednesday — the phone lines were jammed.
Both Mikulski and Sarbanes voted against a resolution in October granting the president authority to take military action against Iraq.
The protest was sponsored by Win Without War, a coalition of national organizations that includes the National Council of Churches, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women and the Sierra Club, among others.
On their Web site, coalition members call themselves “patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction” and that he should be disarmed through “legal diplomatic means.”
Coalition Director Tom Andrews said that the group got its message “through loud and clear.”
“Americans want us to work with our allies through the United Nations to contain the threat from Iraq,” Andrews said in a statement. “We knew that so many people who don’t participate in demonstrations would take the opportunity, by letting their fingers do the marching, to send a clear message to their senators and the president.”
Win Without War claimed that its supporters made more than 1 million phone calls and faxes during the one-day protest, reaching the White House switchboard and every senator’s office.
Though the House was not a target of the virtual protest, House staffers were warned by e-mail of the potential increased activity.
Katie Elbert, spokeswoman for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said the office had received five to 10 calls Wednesday afternoon from constituents contesting the war. That is a typical number of constituent calls, she said.
The Senate Sergeant at Arms’ office also sent out warnings of the virtual protest and advised staff how to handle the influx of calls and e-mails. An official would only say Wednesday that the Senate received a higher volume of e- mails than normal.
“If this doesn’t send a message to Congress and the President, I don’t know what will,” said Trevor FitzGibbon, a spokesman for Win Without War who called the event “historic” and “unbelievable.”
Protest participants registered online, where they pledged to call and fax their two senators and the White House at particular times during the day. It was the latest in a series of anti-war protests in recent weeks, which have include Internet petitions and rallies by millions around the world.