i wake myself to recollect and reflect with others

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i wake myself to recollect and reflect with others
this time of endless war
is it 4 years we endured aground in their Baghdad –
Waterloo – Gallipoli – Dunkirk –
emptying too many boots; filling so many coffins

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War’s bloated and sour hourglass counts the finite and the endless
i wake myself against the comforts of home
leaving my old granny bed
because we agreed to recollect and reflect
and read the names of the dead who filled the coffins and left their empty boots and raw souls keening behind

The day of wrath has come and gone
No song No innocence.
and, now, we stand, mourners together behind our white roses
amid the traffic
naming grief and it’s outrage

So sorry to say your name, but, we are here, friend and
we say your name in Times Square

We call out names in the loud bright
to remember how dull war is

– Diane Dreyfus

The Death Toll Reaches 4,000

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The news we were dreading came. The death toll had reached 4,000. We were drawn to vigils on Monday and Tuesday evenings to call attention to this, the most horrible cost of war – the numbered deaths of U.S. troops and the countless deaths of Iraqis.
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On Monday Grandmothers Against the War held a vigil at at the regular vigil site — west side of 5th Ave. between 49th and 50th. There are photos and video at Gamma Blog. On Tuesday, in Union square there was a vigil organized by United for Peace and Justice and the American Friends Service Committee. We will not be silent.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

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It is not an easy business, standing on a street corner with a pink foam crown on your head, waving a cell phone and a passel of leaflets, trying to talk jaded New Yorkers into calling up their members of Congress. Maybe its the time of year, maybe its an Endless War combined with an Endless Election, or maybe its a shaky economy — but a whole lot of folks just aren’t interested. But then there are those other moments:

Three men from three different generations. Each one against the war, one a veteran. Each one articulates his position with passion. The veteran recently home from Iraq thanks us. The father of the soldier now serving in Iraq thanks us. He tells us his son wasn’t thinking about the war when he enlisted. “Eighteen-year-olds don’t think ahead.” The seventeen-year-old student, calls his representative, “Did you ask us if we wanted to go to war?” He tells us that although he is against this war he plans to enlist.

A young woman – right off the pages of W – stops at the table. She wants to buy a button and wants to know if she can take some of our fliers back to her office. We are, she tells us, an inspiration. She presses an Andy Jackson on us, “for your work.”

Random gaggles of high schoolers who stop to talk — in particular the group that swarmed Eva Lee for information – dropping their studied ennui to engage in spirited discussion.

Those hard-working New Yorkers – cab drivers, bike messengers, and delivery guys and gals – who work so hard to service all the ‘swells.’ Most of the time, they are too busy to stop for a call, but they smile, give us the thumbs up and tell us to “keep on keeping on.” A lot of them take our fliers, they always leave us with a smile. When they tell us they are going to call later, we believe them.

To all of these folks, thank you so much! And for those fellow citizens who walk right past us, be warned, you’re on our agenda and we will be back! We’re not going to stop until we get everybody talking.

– Fran Sears

P.S. The Granny Peace Brigade joins the Raging Grannies (to sing) and Grandmothers Against the War (to vigil) and we welcome women and men of all ages to work with us for peace. Check the Granny Peace Brigade website for a calendar of events.

HANDS ACROSS 14TH STREET UNITED TO END THE IRAQ WAR

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Saturday began gray, but the sun came out for NYC United for Peace and Justice’s RIVER TO RIVER. We live near 14th street, the one chosen for the action, so we went to the block nearest our home. We found ourselves among Brooklynites because the block between 9th and 10th Avenues was the meeting-place for them. I saw familiar faces, because the Peace movement in NYC is like that, but it was new and pleasant to stand among the families of Park Slope, Bay Ridge and Fort Greene who had come with banners and signs.River to River demonstration March 22, 2008

We stood on the sidewalk, facing the traffic. We got thumbs- up and honks of approval. At 1:00, the Eastern and Western ends began to march towards one another inside police barriers creating a lane for marchers. Passing each group as we walked towards Union Square we felt our connection. Lots of smiles together.

Yet we were subdued on the 5th anniversary of a destructive war. In Union Square Leslie Cagan, the National Coordinator of UFPJ, led us in a time of silence when each of us held up a photo of someone killed during the past five years of the conflict. The bells tolled; Holly Near sang beautifully of the pain and loss we were all feeling. A mother from Families of Iraq Veterans for Peace urged each of us to find two people and invite them to become active in a meaningful way towards ending the war. One way, to accomplish this, I sadly realized, would be to get them to accompany us to Union Square on the day after the announcement of the 4,000th U.S. military death. There will be a vigil there.

– Caroline Chinlund,
Granny Peace Brigade

TELL YOUR SENATOR TO FILIBUSTER ANY BILL THAT FUNDS THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ

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That’s what we’ve been asking people to say at our Phone-A-Thons recently. It’s not easy. We stand on a busy sidewalk and ask passersby to call Congress on the spot using our cell phones. (You can find a Phone-A-Thon recipe here.) The amazing thing is that some people actually do stop and make the call. A few of us have gotten hooked on this grassroots action because of these lovely, shy, first-time callers.
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There was the man who had just become a citizen and was carrying his papers home. He took the time to make a call to his senator. His message: Stop the war by stopping the funding. It wasn’t so much what he said, as the look of quiet pride on his face as he closed the phone at the end of the call. On another day, a police officer had been watching over us for an hour and a half. As we were packing up, he came up to us and said he had served in the Army in Afghanistan. Then he thanked us and told us we were doing a good thing.

A lot of people are afraid when they make that first call to Congress. They know what they want – to end the occupation of Iraq and get the troops home safely, but they can hardly get the words out. So we have scripts to help them. We hit the streets in May 2007 with “Stop the war by stopping the funding. Fund only the safe withdrawal of the troops.” We also tried “Support House Resolution 333 to impeach Vice President Cheney.” That one didn’t go over so well. People didn’t want to say it, so we dropped it for a while. Then in August we brought it out again and people were ready. They said, “Yes! Impeach them both!â” over and over again.

In February we launched a new message. We’d been following a lively debate on the United For Peace and Justice legislative discussion list and decided to add filibuster to our message because:

41 Senators can end the occupation of Iraq.

Then we began our struggle to get a script that would work at Phone-A-Thons. We sent a message to the UFPJ legislative list asking for a simple script. David Swanson of After Downing Street sent an excellent one – the basis of our new flyer downloadable from our Phone-A-Thon page.
“Commit now to filibustering any bill that funds the occupation of Iraq.”
“And, announce publicly you will vote NO on cloture on any such bill.”
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The flyer is great for some people but the script is too hard for others, so we wrote another that we wear on our chests:

  1. Tell them who you are.
  2. Tell the senator to filibuster any bill that funds the war in Iraq.
  3. And, tell the senator to vote NO on cloture on any such bill.
  4. 41 senators can stop the war by stopping the funding.

We must add one line. “Fund only the safe withdrawal of the troops.” People tell us they are afraid of what would happen to the troops if Congress just stopped the funding. And we may have to take out the “Vote NO on cloture” line. People are tripping over it.

Okay now try saying very fast five times:
“Tell the senator to commit now to filibustering any bill that funds the occupation of Iraq.”

Ready to make the call? Congressional switchboard toll free – 800-828-0498

“Senators, Please Filibuster War Spending Bills” on YouTube

– Eva-Lee Baird

NEW YORK CITY, 3-19-08, 12 noon 5 YEARS OF THE IRAQ WAR!

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The Granny Peace Brigade was back at the (recently bombed) Recruitment Booth in Times Square. The police assured me that the center was operational. It was raining – some of us had umbrellas; all of us were wet.
Molly with sign, "Whose Mission Accomplished"
We called it a “Knit-In” because we had knitted gloves for the stumps of wounded Iraqi veterans – returning home to learn how to live without an arm or leg. We were knitting in the rain; holding up some of the gloves in plastic bags. Vinie Burrows made a stirring speech as well as
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Norman Siegel our wonderful civil liberties lawyer.

We joined the Raging Grannies singing anti/war songs. There was lots of media including CNN, the NY Times and reporters from France and Sweden. We ignored the loud pro-war rabble. Our message was clear: bring the troops home and end the war! We will be in the streets until we have peace. Do join us!

– Roz Boyd

AMERICAN GRANNIES EXPRESS OUTRAGE AFTER 5 YEARS OF WAR

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Grandmothers in 20 Cities Protest Occupation; Some Get Arrested

With knitting needles, with dirty linen clotheslines, many with songs, and some with acts of civil disobedience, grandmother groups across the United States in at least 20 cities expressed their frustration, their deep rage at the continued occupation of Iraq. This was the granny way of commemorating the end of five years since the bombing of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The coordinated granny actions, initiated by the Granny Peace Brigade in New York City, were the latest ones demonstrating once again that the grandmothers of America have been in the forefront of the peace movement since Day One of the U.S. catastrophic invasion of a sovereign nation.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of the protests was that carried out in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17, where 10 members of the Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace were arrested and jailed for 10 hours when they attempted to enlist in the military at a recruiting center. Said Doris Benit, 80, one of the arrestees: “We believe our young people were sent to Iraq on a web of lies and deceit. We believe they are being used as cannon fodder in an illegal and unjustified war against a nation which posed no threat to us.”

Very whimsical Knit-Ins for Peace were held in New York City, Washington DC, Pittsburgh PA, and other cities. They were outdoor events which involved grandmothers knitting stump socks for amputee veterans. The New York Granny Peace Brigade valiantly knit in the rain for about two hours outside the Times Square recruiting center where they had been arrested and carted off to jail in 2005 for attempting to enlist, while calling out the numbers of dead and wounded from each state. The oldest granny, and perhaps the most vociferously protesting one there, was 93-year-old Marie Runyon. Part of the New York group, along with some members of the Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia and Maryland women, went to Washington, where they knit in rocking chairs outside the Veterans Administration, and when they had completed knitting a number of the stump covers, had a Veteran for Peace color guard hand them over to a VA official. Fifteen Pittsburgh grannies, the oldest of which is 84, participated in their Knit-In at a recruiting station, as pictured below.
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Pittsburgh grandmothers knitting at a local recruiting center March 19, 2008; photo by Bonnie Fortune

Another creative demonstration was that in Philadelphia, where the grannies hung a laundry line at City Hall and hung the dirty linen of the Bush administration on it — each item of clothing inscribed with a plea to correct the many wrongs of the Government The Philly grannies, like most of the other granny groups, sang anti-war songs during their protests.

some of the dirty linen hung at City Hall in Philadelphia PA March 19, 2008. photo by Cathy Clemens

In Orange County, NY, a group of grandmas met with State University students on campus in Middletown, and urged them to participate in the anti-war movement. In spite of pouring rain, there was a good turnout and the students were surprisingly receptive. The older women had a sense that young people are beginning to take more action in the struggle to end the war.

Grannies for Peace in the Albany, NY area joined with other local peace groups in a vigil in front of the state Capitol. Pat Beetle spoke on behalf of the Grannies at the joint media conference held at the vigil. In order to call attention to the victims of the war who are vets, Grannies had brought signs and props developed for a vigil at the local Veterans’ Administration Hospital on Valentine’s Day — large papier mache broken hearts, a banner which reads Prevent Wars: War Wounds Break Hearts, and numerous posters on the broken hearts theme.

150 people, including granny groups, stood on four corners in Sarasota, Florida. Eight stalwart grandmothers in Boston held a vigil on Boston Common in a drenching downpour. Other groups that participated were in Spokane; Minneapolis; Detroit; Albany NY; Monkato MN; San Francisco; Montpelier VT; San Jose CA; Bloomington IND; Portland, Maine; St. Augustine FL, and Denver.
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Amazingly, a lot of the granny protests got wide media coverage in their areas. This represents a kind of breakthrough, as it has been difficult to get publicity for the many grandmother anti-war activities conducted over the last five years since the war was launched..

At least two grandmothers got arrested when a group of protesters prevented entrance to the IRS in Washington DC — Beverly Rice of the New York Granny Peace Brigade and Sue Gracey of the Boston Raging Grannies. Jenny Heinz, Ann Shirazi and Joan Pleune of the Granny Peace Brigade New York were also arrested in Washington during the white mask action at the Capital.

When grandmothers are willing to risk arrest and jail, as so many of us old ladies do on a regular basis these days, you know this war is despised and must be ended. We grannies are not getting any younger and our energy is not what it was in our earlier days — but we keep on keeping on knowing we will not be here forever and earnestly hoping that we are inspiring other and younger people to carry on our urgent quest when we no longer can.

– Joan Wile

GRANNIES TIMES SQUARE KNIT-IN FOR PEACE

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March 19th, End of the 5th year of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Raindrops all night, and we conjure ways to knit in a downpour. Converging at noon on the diamond-shaped section of Times Square where the recruiting office opens its doors, Granny Peace Brigade and friends knitting-in.
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Knit a row; purl a row; every stitch we’re more in touch with the pain and loss of this immoral, illegal war. Stump socks, all colors, for U.S. vet and Iraqi civilian amputees, clothes for Iraqi babies in orphanages and refugee camps. The rain tapers to a mist – we continue, knitting, singing Raging Grannies songs.
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All the while we knit and sing, stationed between us and the door to the recruiting office is a compact little phalanx of people chanting like cheerleaders, “Win the war, then have peace.” We want to tell them, “we love the troops, but they can’t WIN!” We’ve all lost so much. Let’s get our heads together and find a way for everybody, our troops and Iraqi people, to go home and start healing the heartache!

We will keep our needles stitching until the peace arrives.

– Caroline Chinlund

Wishing And Waltzing After Five Awful Years

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Some Granny Peace Brigadiers came from NY to the two day action in Washington D.C. commemorating the 5th year of draconian Bush policy. This Protest was distinguished by no tears policing.

Maybe it’s that we all know each other by now. Perhaps it was that the protest featured multiple programs starting in different times and places. Anyway, bravo for variation on the Peace March. This nuance may usher back Vaudeville just in time for the Depression.

On the 18th, we assembled blocks away; synchronized watches and got briefed on Freeze-in logistics. So, 300 people would file through all doors into the West Hall. There, some advanced guard CodePinkers were already Frozen as if dipping in waltz positions under the magnificently domed, coffered ceiling.

Some Quaker kids stopped still ahead of me holding their â”War is not the Answer” signs aloft. All stood statuesque for five minutes. Some commuters did not even notice, some spoke soft thanks on passing and others hurled “get frickin’ outta the way you nut jobs.” Meanwhile, everybody, cops included, had their video cameras rolling. The call to “RISE UP” came and we responded “END THIS WAR!┝ The waltzers all danced themselves alive as if the War were over. We hugged our old friends and cordially greeted the cops. For a half an hour that Station was all loud, joyous and swirling a-dance.

On the 19th, four of us met in front of the Veteran’s Administration to knit stump sox and we were joined by 50 other Granny types and supporters.. The press coverage went fine — CNN assigned us our own news man and several reporters came by for press kits and interviews.

Our tableau developed earning us agreeable honks until a giant shredder parked in front of the rocking Grannies and cranked up too many decibels for the TV journalists to capture the sound of us reading the Census of the Dead and Wounded.

I inquired of the teamster how long he expected to be there grinding up all two tiny dumpsters full of paper and he replied that it would be 2 hours. And, then, he left. Carol noticed this and got herself up on the high step, reached into the cab and honked; then, she just turned the offensive noise off. There was a moment of relief until five cops came zipping over on their Smith and Wesson (no kidding) bikes. Carol was sure she was going to be arrested.
But, NO.
The cops issued a citation.
For the truck.

The spring rain drizzled the gang away and the color guard of Veterans Against the War arrived to escort us to present the gifts for limbless Vets at the Administration Building. Even there, under their awning and in the shadow of some fancy sawed-off guns cradled by the Kevlar-clad warriors arms, we continued to rock -n- knit. Eventually our gift went into the hands of the Deputy Chief, who thanked us.

– Diane Dreyfus

CALLING ALL GRANNIES!

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The sun is out and so are the skateboarders. There is a beat of leisure in the steps of the lunch-bound crowd. Barbara W stops by on her way to round up support and supplies for next Wednesday’s KNIT-IN. Edith has her table and Eva-Lee is packing a camera. Caroline, jet-lagged but glowing from her trip to Iran, Phyllis, Barbara H, Owen and Fran are on hand. Our table is a rainbow of colors – pink, green, orange, yellow and blue leaflets flutter in the breeze. It’s Phone-A-Thon time!

A big man, with a sweet smile and calloused hands stops by. He shyly informs us that he just became a citizen and will vote this November for the first time. He has moved, and we help connect him with his new congressperson. A squad car cruises by and stops. A woman in an EMS jacket stops to talk. She is a 9/11 survivor and is now on disability with a bad case of asthma and worse post-traumatic stress syndrome. She is furious that her pain – and the pain and loss of so many others – was manipulated into this terrible war.

A Brooklynite with attitude to spare makes calls to both senators – informing them that neither one has a ‘blank check’ and it is time to bring some relief to our local communities. Impeachment is something that resonates with this crowd. We also note that the cost of war is on people’s minds and the concepts of filibuster and cloture filibuster are gaining steam. That squad car is still there, so never one to miss an opportunity, Phyllis engages the officers in conversation and persuades one of them to take some of our literature.

As we start to pack up and head out for some chow, a woman with a worn face introduces herself. Her son is on his second tour of duty in Iraq. On his first tour, his vehicle was destroyed in a roadside bomb. Four men in his unit were killed. He was left with a limp and the loss of hearing in one ear. In spite of these injuries, he was called back and now she is holding her breath, waiting for this tour to be over in six weeks. When the war comes home to us like this, it’s hard to breathe.

Over lunch, we mull the day. Calls were made; folks were engaged. But we were also struck with how many people – especially young folks – seem indifferent. With a bit of probing, what we heard was an undercurrent of disgust and distrust. The endless carping and squabbling amongst ‘presidential’ candidates topped with the tawdry news from the Governor’s office has spawned a terrible malaise that manifests itself with a wry “what difference does it make” attitude.

So it’s time to roll out the Granny Power. Put on your t-shirt, pin on those buttons and get out there and engage anyone you can in discussion. We Grannies can’t allow for any “Citizen Drop-Outs”. And please plan to join us on Wednesday, March 19 either here in NYC or in Washington to mark the fifth anniversary of this illegal and immoral war.

KNIT-IN FOR PEACE – Wednesday, March 19 – Noon
IN NYC:
Times Square Recruitment Center
7th Avenue between 43rd & 44th Streets

IN WASHINGTON, DC:
Veterans Affairs Office
810 Vermont Ave

Not a knitter? No problem! We have a full program planned with room for any and all participation. So come join us. Now, more than ever, we need to ‘keep on keeping on’ and show the world that ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport!’

To our sisters who are taking the KNIT-IN to Washington, travel safe, get a good night’s sleep, then get out there and show your stuff! We will look forward to hearing all the details on your return and know you all will be in our thoughts as we rally in Times Square. How wonderful it is to know so many others around the country are rallying in solidarity in their own cities. Hopefully, these folks will be sending us their stories so we can share our experiences and learn more for the next wave.

In Peace…and action,

The Legislative Committee & Friends
Fran Sears with, Eva-Lee, Phyllis, Caroline, Barbara H, Edith, Barbara W., Molly and Owen

P.S. The Granny Peace Brigade joins the Raging Grannies (to sing) and Grandmothers Against the War (to vigil) and we welcome women and men of all ages to work with us for peace. Check the Granny Peace Brigade website for a calendar of events.

Committed to the struggle to make a safe and peaceful world for all children and grandchildren