INTERVIEW: Protester Medea Benjamin explains what it’s like to yell at President Obama

Medea Benjamin, an activist from the organization called Code Pink, shouts at U.S. President Barack Obama while he speaks at the National Defense University May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.  Credit: Getty Images
Medea Benjamin, an activist from the organization called Code Pink, shouts at U.S. President Barack Obama while he speaks at the National Defense University May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Credit: Getty Images

Long-time activist Medea Benjamin was at the center of attention Thursday after she repeatedly interrupted President Obama as he spoke about the U.S. drone policy and Guantanamo Bay. Obama paused several times to address her and let her speak for a good minute before moving on with his comments. Benjamin, co-founder of the social justice movement CODEPINK, refused to budge from her seat and was eventually escorted away. Metro spoke with her after she was released to ask more about her spur-of-the-moment decision literally heard ’round the world.

Metro: What is it like to yell at the President like that and be heard by the entire nation?

Benjamin: It’s really scary! I was listening intently and was more and more disappointed as I heard him talk about drones and not using his power to say they will take them out of the CIA. There were rumors he was going to put an end to signature strikes and yet he didn’t do that. And then Guantanamo Bay — he is Commander in Chief! He could close it today.

Did you go in there planning to address him like that?

I thought that perhaps I would be happy with what he would say. I really went in with an open mind.

Did they try to silence you? Did you have to resist?

It’s a very formal setting and I think they would have been embarrassed to have pulled me out in a brutal way. They tried to and I insisted on staying in my seat. I appreciate that we have the ability to speak out, but more important to me is to have policies that coincide with the Geneva Convention and international law.

What did you think when the President said, ‘That woman’s voice is worth listening to’?

I thought that was really great but I think rather than just more nice words, we need action. There are 102 men in Guantanamo Bay who are starving themselves,  30 being brutally force fed. They need justice.

What did you think of his responses to you?

I’m not content with words. What we want to see is actions.

Have you been to one of Obama’s press conferences before and addressed him like this?

This was my second one. Yes, I have spoken to him privately but nothing like this.

What was it like when they came over and tried to silence you?

It was really scary. They were saying they were army  and FBI and Secret Service. It was intimidating. I insisted on remaining in my seat and getting a chance to speak out more on the drone program because I had only talked about Gitmo. I don’t think anyone would do anything like this lightly… I’m still shaking…

How did the people around you react?

[Laughs] They were kind of shocked. They didn’t know what to do. The police asked them to get away from me so I was by myself surrounded by other press and law enforcement.

Were you arrested?

No. I was taken to a room and asked a lot of questions and I was very forthcoming and then I was allowed to leave. They just asked basic questions about everything from where I lived, my phone number, social security number to why did I do it.

Do you plan to show up to another Obama press conference?

I have no idea. One day at a time.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.