Category Archives: Grass Roots Action

Freedom Ride – Not Just Another Bus Ride


Who is this woman and why was this mug shot taken?
Joan spent her first two years of college at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. It was 1957 and it happened to be the first year that the state of North Carolina integrated its public universities, in response to federal law, of course. A group of seven Black women was selected by the NAACP to fill the slots at WCUNC (the Women’s College.) One of these women became a close friend and Joan became aware of the courage that these women needed to study at the University and live on campus. In all fairness, the young white women at WCUNC were not overtly hostile to these young women and often seemed to just not know how to relate. After transferring to the to the University of California in Berkeley, Joan decided to return to the South as a Freedom Rider, riding an integrated train and demanding integrated facilities. Was she scared? “I think I was too determined (read dumb??) and too young to be really scared. And by the time we got to Mississippi, I was just stunned (see mugshot).”

Although the freedom riders spent weeks in jail before bailing out, it was necessary for them to return to Jackson, Mississippi for a trial date later that year. The Greyhound Bus Company had difficulty finding a driver for the bus to transport the riders out of Mississippi. No one wanted to drive them out of Jackson – the Greyhound drivers were afraid of mob violence and with good reason. Many buses had been attacked and the riders beaten. There were snipers on the roads. One mob had set fire to a bus in Alabama and tried to burn to death the Freedom Riders inside.

Finally, Joan’s group found a driver and they set off in the middle of the night. As stones started to hit the bus Joan and her compatriots asked the driver not to stop – to just keep going. He thought that a good plan.

– Joan Pleune,
Granny Peace Brigade




Coats are off, the day is warm, people are sailing by in Union Square. Ten of us today, from Granny Peace Brigade, Code Pink, Raging Grannies and their Daughters and a new recruit, Carla from Chelsea United for Peace and Justice.

Eva-Lee and Owen

We’re all seizing the occasion of “Iraq Call-In Day” to get people to step up and make a call to Congress, right here and now. Agenda: Saying NO to Bush’s request for $102 billion more for Iraq. Co-sponsoring Lynn Woolsey’s HR 5507 and safely bring the troops home.

In their fine hats, Mercy, Lillian and Corinne are singing Raging Grannies songs. In between numbers, they call their representatives. We get a nice photo of them with Emma, whose outfit is also irresistible.
Film crews catch us, young men are asking for Granny Peace Brigade buttons. The voters are with us, it’s just the government that needs to know. Phyllis gets a call from Hillary Clinton thanking her for all the calls and letters and saying she’s finally realizing the war was a mistake! but it’s Barbara, joking. Oh, well, soon!

Charlotte greets people exiting the subway: “Tell your Congressman where you want your tax dollars to go!” She meets a guy who takes the flier and then tells her, “I’m a single just isn’t working right now.” He’s come from a labor meeting.

One of Caroline’s callers is Richard. He looks like he’s dressed for a job interview. He calls Rangel, identifies himself as a resident of a shelter in the district. His message about how he wants his tax dollars spent is loud and clear.

Phyllis talks with a woman who is a documented resident living in Queens. She says, “I pay taxes. Can’t I call?” Phyllis asks another woman, “Are you from New York?” She turns out to be from Sweden, visiting. Reaching for the leaflet, she replies : “NO, but I can read!”
A couple is picking up the flier at the table near Eva-Lee. The woman looks down at the flier. Eva-Lee thinks she’s reading, so she asks the husband, “Are you ready to call?” He says, “She’s making the call right now” and he is right. She is punching it in at lightning speed. He knows his wife.

Lots of thumbs up, many people taking Charlotte, Owen, Anne, and Phyllis’ literature with phone number of the Capitol switchboard. We hand out all the fliers we bring today! So we are assuming that those intentions are percolating all over town. Springtime! Seeds will sprout. Actual on the spot calls, 25 or so today.

Join us. Check the calendar at for the date of our next Phonathon.

– Caroline Chinlund with Lillian, Mercy, Corinne, Carla, Phyllis, Eva-Lee, Charlotte, Anne and Owen

– Photos by Caroline Chinlund

Maintaining Privacy for High School Students Requires Action


Five stalwart members and friends of the Granny Peace Brigade and CodePink gathered at Washington Irving High School on Thursday April 3, 2009, the evening of Citywide High School Parents’ Open School night, to help parents who want to keep their children from being recruited into the military. Pat, Leigh, Joe, Eva-Lee and Edith told students and their parents that they need to register with the school to keep their son’s or daughter’s privacy intact. They can’t assume that privacy is a given, or that they would need to give the school permission to give out their child’s name and contact information.
Provisions of the NCLB Act (No Child Left Behind*) require the school to provide students’ names and contact information to military recruiters or the school will lose funding. To prevent the student’s name from being given to recruiters for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, the student and/or the parent must notify the school in writing that they don’t want their child’s name given out.

The Grannies gave out information and forms. They encouraged the parents and students to complete the forms and give them in to the principal’s office.

Some parents and students said they had already given in the forms. Others were not yet aware of the need to do so and were very appreciative at being given the information and the forms. Several said that military recruiters have been calling their home repeatedly.
One man was of a different viewpoint – he feels joining the military is a good opportunity. Staff in the school also engaged us in conversation and said that, although they have to be circumspect about it, they try to provide this information also.

– Edith Cresmer

* The NCLB Act provides funding to the schools



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.



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.
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.”
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



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
Times Square Recruitment Center
7th Avenue between 43rd & 44th Streets

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?


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.

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


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.