Originally published on October 20, 2011
by Jill Dalton
“Six years ago, 18 women attempted to enlist in the U.S. Military at the Recruitment Center in Times Square. Not only were we not welcomed, we were arrested…and the Granny Peace Brigade was born. Since then, we Grannies have stood our ground in the struggle for peace and social and economic justice — and for our precious First Amendment right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. We will be observing our anniversary on Tuesday, October 18th, at 7:00PM by the fountain at Lincoln Center (Broadway & West 66th Street). In a silent vigil timed to coincide with show time, we grannies will once again stand our ground… against invasions, wars, occupations against U.S. military bases abroad against militarization of youth against the human cost of war—domestic and international against the economic cost of war. We will stand our ground for freedom of speech, for the right to peaceably assemble as our First Amendment guarantees. We invite you to join with us in this silent mini-occupation as we reflect on the issues that have galvanized us for the past six years. We stand our ground.”
And they did. Last night my new friend, Paulette, and I decided to meet at Lincoln Center by the fountain to stand in solidarity with the grannies. At 7 p.m. the grannies formed a line in front of the fountain in the plaza and held up their banners and signs. One large banner read: “Granny Peace Brigade, Troops Home Now.” The other: “We stand our ground.” The signs read: “We stand for the right to peaceably assemble,” “Against the human cost of war,” “Against invasions, wars, occupations,” “We stand for freedom of speech, ” “Against U.S. Military bases abroad,” “Money for healthcare not war,” and so on. After taking a few pictures I joined the line with Paulette and the grannies.
The plaza was swarming with NYPD and press. The cameras flashed as we stood in silence. Then around 7:20 the head of security for Lincoln Center came out and made the announcement we were standing on semi private property (whatever that means) and we must leave or the police would be called and since the police were already there that wouldn’t be too difficult. I looked at my friend Paulette and we shrugged our shoulders and stayed put. No one else moved either.
Then out of nowhere appeared, Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who served as director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), New York’s leading civil rights organization under the umbrella of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1985-2000. He informed us we could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct but we each had to decide what was right for us. We could stay or leave it was up to us if we wanted to be arrested. Paulette chimed in, “Who wants to be arrested?” I asked, “Do they have to read us our rights?” He informed me, “No.” And I replied, “Well, if you look at the names on these buildings they say Koch Brothers.” I turned to my friend, “Well, Paulette do you have any plans for tomorrow?” “Yes, I have two doctors appointments.” We both took a deep breath and decided we’d stay with the grannies and stand our ground. The cameras flashed some more and reporters began interviewing some of the grannies.
One woman interviewed told the reporter she came because she lived across the street and they’d put up a sign in her building promising to protect them from the angry Occupy Wall Street mobs that might descend on them. So she decided to come see for herself and once here she took a sign and got in line with the rest of us but I noticed she disappeared when the ‘arrested’ word was mentioned; probably back to her luxury apartment across the street.
So there we stood. Mostly silent. At one point a young man passed in front of me and mouthed the words “Thank you” and I smiled.
Now I’ve never been arrested. I managed to out run or out smart the cops in the 60’s and so far so good with the NYPD. I just kept surrounding myself and the silent demonstrators with love and light, peace and justice and believe me it sure helped to have Norman Siegel there guiding us every step of the way. He gave me courage and strength.
Emily, the young woman standing to my right told me, “I have to work tomorrow and it’s my first day and you know in this economy I’m so grateful to have a job and it pays well…” and I said, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to call in the morning and say you can’t come in but could they bail you out?” I’m sure that would go over really well.
But 8:00 came and went and no arrests were made. No one even attempted to make an arrest. I think the police were waiting for us to be joined by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators so they could go in swinging, make arrests and pepper spray at will. The NYPD already looks so bad at this point would they really have the nerve to arrest a bunch of grannies standing in silence for peace? One of them was using a walker. Come on now.
However, in Soho, Naomi Wolf was not so lucky. The Huffington Post reported, “Wolf and a companion were handcuffed outside Skylight Studios in Manhattan where Gov. Andrew Cuomo was to accept the “Game Changer of the Year Award” from the Huffington Post.
Now look I keep hearing my progressive friends complaining about President Obama. When is he going to do something, why is he doing this or that? Well, get over it. He’s not going to do anything that does not serve his own self-interest or those of his corporate cronies. Time to realize it ain’t about the president. It’s about us, so better get your boots on the ground and join the movement. Guess what, we’re the change we want to see in the world. It’s us. And getting out and standing up with other brave, likeminded souls for a cause you passionately believe in is a great antidote to shame, depression, guilt and almost anything else that ails you. Occupy Wall Street or Lincoln Square or your apartment if you still have one or whatever you can. Occupy. Coming to a town near you.