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.

Signing Statements: What Happened To Our Constitution?

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Hey, this January Congress passed a law with a section that said there should be no permanent bases in Iraq and the Iraqis should control the oil. Yes, they tucked this lovely section (1222*) into the defense appropriation bill. Maybe our senators and representatives noticed our “No Blood for Oil” signs.

So how’s this law doing? It’s not doing well, at all. As a matter of fact, it is in tatters, in shreds; it’s a wreck. President Bush signed the bill, but he issued a signing statement saying the “no permanent bases” part doesn’t count. Congress says no permanent bases and the president says no way.

But doesn’t the Constitution of the United States say that Congress writes the laws? If a president starts writing them, isn’t it time to call in the constitutional lawyers?

On January 30 the editors of the “New York Times” wrote about this signing statement attached to the defense appropriation bill:

It’s glaringly obvious why Mr. Bush rejected the fourth provision, which states that none of the money authorized for military purposes may be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

It is more evidence, as if any were needed, that Mr. Bush never intended to end this war, and that he still views it as the prelude to an unceasing American military presence in Iraq.

It is time to send a message to the next president that we the people expect to get our Constitution back. Call your Representative and tell him/her to impeach Dick Cheney and George Bush. Toll free number for Congressional Offices (800) 828-0498.

– Eva-Lee Baird

*Section 1222 of the defense appropriation bill enacted this January: “No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:
“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

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 homepage for a calendar of events.

The Granny Peace Brigade Goes to College

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It’s often asked by peace activist organizations – “Where are the young people? Why aren’t they speaking out for peace and justice?”

Responding to an invitation from Adelphi University Professor Deborah Little, five members of the Granny Peace Brigade traveled to the University and met with students from the Women, Peace and Justice Project seminar. We spoke about issues the GPB is working on and described direct actions to effect change. We hoped presenting the Grannies’ message and activism would serve as a model for college students. We were not disappointed!

Over 100 students from the Sociology and Political Science Departments attended the seminar. Each Granny spoke about an event or issue of current importance and relevance to the students. Molly Klopot spoke of how women activists from several peace groups united in an action which resulted in founding the GPB. Phyllis Cunningham introduced the legislative committees’ action issues, Eva-Lee Baird explained the Phone-A-Thon project and materials. After viewing a video of a phone-a-thon action at Columbus Circle, a student volunteered to call her representative as everyone listened and applauded. Activism 101!

Barbara Harris discussed the prevalence of military recruiters in the schools as well as in targeted neighborhoods, what the GPB is doing to counter the recruiters’ aggressive tactics and misleading promises, what needs to be done, and how college students can get involved in this effort. Nydia Leaf explained the call for abolition of all US military bases on foreign soil, the current situation surrounding the presence of such bases including Guantanamo, and the geo-strategy and economic interests which guide US policy.

Most gratifying to us from the hour spent with the students was their obvious interest in the issues, their receptiveness to our information and respect for our experience, the understanding that each has a responsibility to act, and their desire to learn how to become more active in the peace movement.

One hour for the seminar was far too short, but at the Q and A several students asked questions ranging from personal concerns about patriotism and a family tradition of military service, to media control of information and political actions, to the pervasiveness of violent video games. The final question was straightforward: A student wanted to call Senator Schumer with a message loud and clear – “End the occupation, Bring the troops home now – and I will forgive you for the Mukasey vote.”

Several students remained to share experiences with us such as the young man with years in JROTC and preparation for military service, who finally realized he wanted a different choice for himself –a college education and a path to community service. A young woman wanted to know how her grandmother could get in touch with us.

We all agreed this opportunity to speak with and learn from college students was very fruitful outreach. They have energy, know-how, and an interest in ongoing education for peace. We offered the impetus and example to just do it.

The GPB plans to pursue academic outreach and present similar seminars in order to continue a dialogue with student groups.

– Barbara Harris
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Teach-In to Close Guantanamo and All U.S. Bases on Foreign Soil

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The Granny Peace Brigade Teach-In had an overflow crowd at St. Mark’s Church on Veterans Day November 11, 2007. Organized by the No Bases Committee and moderated by Vinie Burrows, the event was dedicated to the memory of Dave Cline, co-founder of Veterans for Peace, and was held on November 11th – a day designated as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War One and now called Veterans Day (USA) and Remembrance Day Canada).

The Teach-In included an expert panel of speakers who gave impassioned presentations on a variety of related areas: Guantanamo – Lynn Kates from the Center for Constitutional Rights: Germany’s Bases – Elsa Rassbach of American Voices Abroad:Global opposition – Al Marder of the World Peace Council: Impact on civilian life – Regina Birchem, Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom

There is great urgency in informing the U.S. public on the little known topic of military bases overseas as the Pentagon seeks to expand its presence beyond the current 737 bases in 130 countries. Expansion plans include transferring its African Central Command from Germany to Africa, enlarging existing bases in Northern Italy, and establishing anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic – all these despite enormous local opposition. And perhaps, most fearsome, is the stated goal of the U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020 seeking total domination “of the space dimension of military operations.”

The Granny Peace Brigade welcomed support for the Teach-In from many sister organizations working to awaken the U.S. public to the costs, globally and domestically, of this military “Baseworld”: American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Workers, Code Pink, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, War Resisters League, and the Women’s International Democratic Federation. Music appropriate to the Veterans Day theme, performed by Joan Wile with additional songs by the NYC Metro Raging Grannies, was well received.

Our next Teach-In will take place in early 2008 on the base structures in Okinawa and other sites. Look for details posted on this website.
 – Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade
There’s a short video of the November 11 Teach-In on the GPB video channel on YouTube.

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