â€œI could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.â€? Though these words are attributed to the great social activist Eleanor Roosevelt, they could easily serve as the motto for the Granny Peace Brigade. If you have not heard of this dynamic group of elders, allow me to introduce you:
A group of women who call themselves the â€œGranny Peace Brigadeâ€? have gone on trial in New York for their protest against the Iraq war. The women, aged between 50 and 91, were charged with disorderly conduct after demonstrating outside a military recruitment center. Their supporters outside the courthouse included leading anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq. The 18 women, many of whom are grandmothers, have pleaded not guilty. â€œComing to this damn court is nothing compared to what is happening to people in Iraq,â€? said Marie Runyon, aged 91 and the oldest member of the group.
None of the women has grandchildren serving in the US military. But Joe Wile, co-founder of the group, said that was beside the point. â€œWeâ€™re here for a larger purpose,â€? said the 74-year-old. â€œWe feel extremely heartbroken for all the young kids, American and Iraqi, who are dying in this war.â€?
The women were arrested on October 17 last year after they protested outside a US military recruitment center in Times Square, New York. They had wanted to enlist, but found the door locked and sat down in front of the building. Prosecutors say this prevented people from entering or leaving the center and obstructed pedestrian traffic. They also say the women refused to disperse as ordered. The women have been charged on two counts of disorderly conduct.
Noted civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel is defending the women in court. â€œWe should be praising these grandmothers, not prosecuting them,â€? Mr Siegel said. He told the court that the women had not broken any laws and that their protest was â€œrespectful, orderly, justified and patriotic.â€?
Were I wearing a hat at the moment, I would gratefully doff it to these fine patriots, who are not only demonstrating against an unnecessary war but also demonstrating that political activism knows no age constraints. Their actions uniquely manage to defy both convention and authority. I can only hope that I am equally as activeâ€”politically and physicallyâ€”in my golden years. For additional coverage on the granny-power movement, I refer you to a recent article by Kristen Lombardi in the Village Voice entitled â€œGrandmothers of Inventionâ€? and to the organization, Grandmothers for Peace International. You go, girls.
P.S. Are you reading this, Mom?