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.
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.
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