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Children's Shoes at Hillary's Door

September 21, 2006
New York City, NY

While we bought some shoes at local thrift shops, we put out a call for children’s shoes to all our friends and neighbors, many of whom are not actively engaged in the peace movement. One CODEPINK supporter organized a collection drive at her kids’ elementary school. The great thing about this aspect of the action was that it motivated women to look at their own children’s outgrown shoes and make the connection between their children and the children of Iraq. It also gave them a way to participate in the anti-war movement that did not require them to miss work or leave their kids with a babysitter. Many of those who donated shoes wanted to see photos from the action. They also wanted to know what we would do when we finished with the shoes—and we promised to donate them to a local charity.

We visited the web site to find the names and ages of specific children who have died violent deaths in Iraq because of the U.S. war and occupation. In this way the symbolism of the shoes was made more particular and poignant by its connection to a specific child.

After we assembled the shoes, we tied each pair together with a bit of pink satin ribbon, and then secured a tag bearing a name and age of an Iraqi child. We tried to be careful to match the age and gender of the child to the size and style of the shoe.

On September 21, 2006 (International Peace Day) we lined a hundred pairs of shoes up on the sidewalk in front of Senator Hillary Clinton’s Manhattan office. We also prepared signs and flyers explaining why the shoes and why Hillary. Many people stopped to look at the shoes and to discuss Hillary’s support for the war and the details of her voting record.

After an hour and a half at Hillary’s office, we packed up the shoes and took them downtown to Union Square to join the Peace Party at the invitation of the organizers. This action at a busy location really got people talking -- mothers discussing it with their children, groups of nannies with strollers talking to each other, strangers standing together silently and then exchanging words, people kneeling or sitting—gently touching the shoes and moving the tags to read them better. Many people took out their cell phone cameras to snap photos of the shoes. Many people wept. An Algerian man who passed by told us that it was the most powerful anti-war statement he had seen.

While we had hoped this action would be powerful, it was only as we watched the responses of people that we realized how hungry people in this city are for concrete images of the toll of this war on the people of Iraq. The symbolic and yet concrete representation of dead Iraqi children—some as young as two months old—had a profound effect on many passersby. While photos of dead and maimed children are too graphic for most parents to tolerate, these shoes were poignant without being violently disturbing. The display was also attractive to the media and a number of wire services sent photographers and reporters. A photo of the shoes appeared on the front page of Metro NY with the caption, “In Their Shoes.”

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