As she hurried about, planting signs and posters on trees, benches and the Scoville Park “horse” fountain at the corner of Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue, Julia Field hardly fit the image of a woman drained by a month-long fast.

The signs were plastered with anti-war slogans like “Troops Home Fast” and “End the War Now.” On the fountain her centerpiece was displayed, a bright pink cloth banner that read “Code Pink.”

“The face of the activist has changed,” Field stated, arguing that young mothers and women like her are the up-and-coming leaders of the anti-war movement, which historically was led by liberal college students. She is an active member of Code Pink, a national organization founded in 2002 that represents women who oppose the Iraq War and other aspects of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. Its name is a tongue-in-cheek play on the Homeland Security color-coded warning system. Members of the group have been fasting since July 4th to gain publicity for their support of an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

“[The fast is] going really well,” Field joked. “I’ve lost almost 25 pounds in 31 days.” She has been surviving with fruit juices, water, and soup broth. “I try to keep my calories up to 1,000 a day, so that when I start eating again, I don’t have a terrible rebound.” Field said the greatest challenge comes during Oak Park’s Thursday Night Out dining event, when the smells from the restaurants’ kitchens waft over Scoville Park.

Since Independence Day, Field has been at the park every Monday and Thursday, passing out fliers and soliciting signatures for a “Peace Vote” petition. “I’m out in public almost every day [she also demonstrates in Evanston] to keep [the Iraq War] in people’s minds,” Field said. “Its important to keep it front and center.”

Field’s activism was born out of adversity. During the six months she was subjected to and recovering from chemotherapy, she tuned in to NPR “all the time.”

“I listened to all these horrible atrocities going on with the war, and I wanted to get involved,” she said. “But I didn’t know how.”

After she recovered, Field immediately set out to find an organization that represented her political ideology. One of her friends encouraged her to come to Unity Temple to hear Medea Benjamin, one of the founders of Code Pink. Field was struck by how Code Pink used humor-like sporting Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld masks-in order to achieve their political goals. “It was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.

Field emphasized that Code Pink encourages political activism. “We’re not big on meetings,” she said. “We want people to call their senators and go to marches and rallies to make their voices heard.”

As she sat on a bench to be interviewed, a man passed by, loudly voicing his opposition to Field covering the water fountain and trees with her signs. “You get one of those per day,” she remarked, reciting a number of phrases and obscenities that have been yelled at her. “He at least came and talked to me. Most people wait until they’re 10 feet past you and then yell something nasty.”

Code Pink has an ambitious agenda. “Our main goal is to get a date set for our troops to come home,” Field said. In order to achieve that goal, leaders of the group, including Cindy Sheehan-who gained notoriety by camping outside of President Bush’s compound in Crawford, Texas last summer to protest the death of her son-traveled to Amman, Jordan this week to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians. After that meeting, Field said, they are continuing on to Lebanon, to voice their support for an immediate cease-fire in the war between Israel and the Hezbollah militia.

The decision to visit Lebanon is an example of how Code Pink has developed a broader agenda than opposition to the Iraq War. Field was distributing a flier that read, “Please tell your representative that it is not the desire of the U.S. people to aid and abet Israel in its ‘violations of International Law’.”

This past Saturday, Field and other Code Pink members broke their fast in solidarity with their representatives who were eating with the Iraqi MPs in Amman. After that, members will continue fasting until Sept. 21, International Peace Day.

“[Eating’s] overrated,” Field said as she sat with a few other activists on Saturday. “When you really believe in something, fasting’s not difficult.”

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