<\body> Stories in America: Judge Acquits the Granny Peace Brigade

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Judge Acquits the Granny Peace Brigade

The "Granny Peace Brigade" on their way back to court Wednesday after a lunch break. (Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)

Members of the "Granny Peace Brigade" outside Manhattan's Criminal Court. (Dima Gavrysh/AP)

This is a great story. Remember the 18 grandmothers who were arrested in New York and jailed for four and a half hours after they blocked the entrance to the military recruitment center in Times Square where they tried to enlist in the Army and replace a young American soldier in Iraq? The grannies were in court last week; here's an exchange between the prosecutor and 62-year-old Judy Lear:
Wasn't their real objective to get publicity by being arrested? "Did you personally believe you were going to be allowed to enlist?" Mr. McConnell asked Ms. Dreyfus.

"I wasn't sure," she replied. "I do have a skill set." She is a facilities manager and "could be used to deploy equipment," she said.

But, the prosecutor insisted, was she prepared to go to war?

"Yes," Ms. Dreyfus replied. "I was totally prepared. I had just recently gotten divorced. I was ready."

The grannies burst out laughing, and a red blush spread, once more, over Judge Ross's face.
After six days of a non-jury trial, they were acquitted of all charges:
The 18 women -- gray haired, some carrying canes, one legally blind, one with a walker -- listened gravely and in obvious suspense as Judge Neil Ross delivered a carefully worded 15-minute speech in which he said that his verdict was not a referendum on the Police Department, the anti-war message of the grannies, or, indeed, their very grandmotherhood.

But, he said, there was credible evidence that the grandmothers had left room for people to enter the recruitment center, had they wanted to, and that therefore, they had been wrongly arrested. He then pronounced them not guilty, concluding: "The defendants are discharged."

The women, sitting in the jury box at the invitation of the judge, to make it easier for them to see and hear, let out a collective "Oh!" and burst into applause, rushing forward, as quickly as elderly women could rush, to hug and kiss their lawyers, Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Earl Ward.

"Listen to your granny, she knows best!" crowed Joan Wile, a retired cabaret singer and jingle writer who was one of the defendants.

Outside the courthouse minutes later, the women burst into their unofficial anthem, "God Help America," composed by Kay Sather, a member of a sister group, the Raging Grannies of Tucson, Ariz., which goes, "God help America, We need you bad. Cause our leaders, are cheaters, and they're making the world really mad."


Post a Comment

<< Home