Earlier this month, six troublemakers from antiwar group Code Pink went to Miami to stage a protest against a man they consider a terrorist, but many locals consider a hero. To put it mildly, their little protest did not go well. First there was the claim, broadcast on local Spanish-language TV, that the protesters should watch out, or "someone might crack your head like a coconut." Next came three death threats. Finally, there was the angry mob of mostly Cuban exiles who spat on them.
It all started when the FBI announced it would publicize its most-wanted list on billboards in 20 cities, including Miami. The Code Pinkos wanted the FBI to add someone to the list: Miami resident and 80-year-old Cuban wacko Luis Posada Carriles, who has been connected with bombings in Havana in 1997. "I was there when the hotels were bombed, so I always had a beef with Posada Carriles," Code Pink's Medea Benjamin explains. "I said, 'Let's do a campaign to get him on the most-wanted list.'"
Code Pink printed up pink postcards featuring Posada's pic for the event, and Benjamin appeared on Arrebatados, a Miami Spanish-language comedy and chat show. After the show, her phone started ringing. In both Spanish and English, callers had choice words for her. "They called me 'Communist cunt' and threatened to get me," Benjamin recalls. "After that show, we started getting nervous."
Code Pink members further tempted fate by holding their protest at the most Cuban of local sites, the Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana. At least, that's where they planned to be. When the Code Pink crew arrived at the Versailles in a Dodge Ram loaded with a huge "Wanted" sign featuring Posada in younger days, they were greeted by an angry mob.
Cuban radio had trumpeted details of the protest, and more than 200 Posada Carriles backers gathered outside the restaurant. They carried signs and wore T-shirts that read "Code Pink is a pro-Al Qaeda Terrorist Organization," "Porques no te callas?" (Why don't you shut up?), and "Code Pink Is Close to Red." Some protesters spit on the Dodge Ram. Code Pink's arrival turned into a chase as the mob ripped part of the "Wanted" sign from the back. On a YouTube video of the chaos, a woman in curlers alleges Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is paying the peaceniks.
"It was mayhem," says Tighe Barry, Code Pink's token dude. "I took a right-hand turn, and there were hundreds of crazy people rushing us with poles that had points at the end."
Undeterred, the next day several Code Pink provocateurs decided to eat at the Versailles, where Benjamin reports the food was "mediocre." They were pelted with eggs when they left.
So what did Benjamin and her cohorts learn from their experience? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. The group plans another protest in Miami on February 9.
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Miami New Times.