Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Recruiters on the Run from Raging Grannies

Just another beautiful day in Tucson. Woke up, showered, dressed in pink, went to Bentley’s for a single short in the dark (all they serve coffeewise is Fair Trade Coffee), made a few signs and zipped off to the protest. I got to the weekly protest on the sidewalk in front of the Recruiting Center on Speedway Blvd. at about five before the hour -- 7:55 a.m. There were already 20 or so people there plus the Grannies and the news crews.

Grannies.... you know those womderful Tucson Raging Grannies who were arrested for criminal trespass (punishable by up to 39 days in jail and a $500 fine (cripes that is probably more than their Social Security...)when they attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army but the recruiters refused to listen to their prepared statement about why they wanted to enlist.

Army Recruiting in any form was conspicuously absent. One non-protester I spoke with (who shall remain anonymous) told me the Army recruiters closed today "because of you guys." Hmmmmm. I guess the recruiters just were not up to facing national media asking them why they they had a bunch of little old ladies and journalists arrested as a first recourse when those ladies and journalists vacated their office within a minute of being asked to leave two weeks ago.

Not all recruiters are as plain old hostile as the ones here in Tucson. I don’t know what kind of bug they have where, but simple courtesy could have diffused the situation even before it became a situation. And now they are running from the protesters, news folks, and Raging Grannies. That strikes me as simply yellow running scared. I will try to get some pics up of the event but I was too busy talking to cops, who had far more officers there than the situation called for, and holding signs and talking to like minded folks to take pics today. I can't protest and do journalist documentation at the same time. I keep those roles quite separate.

This last fact about the overabundance of police disturbs me. Tucson is a large city in the state with the highest crime rate in the nation. We’ve had several murders here within the city limits within the past week. I confess I didn’t do a careful count but there were at least 4 bicycle cops, a couple regular cops, and one women officer who I could not determine what capacity she was there in and two motorcycle cops showed up to drive by shortly after 8 a.m. All this unnecessary show of force does is convince me that the current administration in the White House has diverted a totally unjustified amount of resources into instilling fear in the populace to the detriment of real safety and security in our communities. This extends all the way from the horrific cost of war that is paid internationally in human lives to the City Goverment level where the climate of fear suddenly calls for massive police presence at protests that have been going on peaceably for the last three years. That is criminal.

While I was holding a banner with a CODEPINK friend and colleague I had opportunity to speak with a well spoken bike officer. (The sign, by the way, read “ Send Rove to Iraq to Fight, NOT our families and friends.”) I was telling my friend the story Medea Benjamin tells in
How To Stop The Next War Now
about how South American police officers were present at demonstrations to protect the rights of the protestors – because it is a democracy. The officer and I began speaking after this, and by the end of the conversation he had told at least one passerby that they were “there to protect the protesters.”

I don’t know if he believed that, I can’t read minds, but it is good to hear those words coming the mouths of police officers. It is sort of like smiling when you feel sad. The smiling actually helps you feel better. (That old physio-chemical interaction thing.) Same with those words, if we can get enough of our law enforcement officers saying that they are there to protect our right to peaceably assemble and exercise free speech, we have made significant inroads against the opposition’s attempts to divide us into warring factions here at home.

We are all Americans who love our country and are trying to protect it as best we know how. Now if we can just reach those folks like the young man whose face was filled with hatred and rage as he drove by today and flipped the bird at us, we will have turned the tide.

The Grannies are certainly doing their part. They were beautiful this morning. These are caring and fun loving women who educate through song. They are great people. I can’t wait to see what the national morning show (Today Show) does with the film from the demonstration and from the Raging Granny practice (they are a chorus and they do have regular practices) at which the crew was to film immediately after the protest. This practice, by the way, was being held at the local WILPF president’s house --- she is 93.

These women are effectively our council of elders, our grandmothers’ council – akin to the Iroquois Grandmothers’ Council whose role was to have the final say as to whether war was necessary when the warriors brought the request to them. We need these women. We need to hear what their collective centuries of wisdom have to teach us. They may be tough ol’ broads, but they know how to enjoy life. Anger destroys; humor builds and informs.

Our military should not be afraid of our own grandmothers nor of their wisdom or songs.


Just as an endnote.... a CODEPINK representative came down from CODEPINK Phoenix to show support for our Tucson Raging Grannies. That’s a two-hour drive for a one-hour protest. That is belief in and support of these ladies. Four hours of driving in thermometer busing temperatures. That is how passionately we believe in our Grannies! Fortunately we did have some time to chat over coffee and chai after the I wanted to drop off some printed copies of the Downing Street Memo so people can read it so she didn't have to drive back immediately. The one thing we decided over coffee -- Kyl and McCain may come from Arizona, but they do not represent us. I personally believe that Congressman Raul Grijalva is the only Representative from Arizona who truly represents the people and not corporate interests. Geesh, when are we going to get busy passing laws that distinguish people from corporate entities? It makes no sense to say that Corporations have a right to free speech. People have rights. Corporations should just be given privileges which can be revoked if they engage in actions harmful to people. But that is better left for another blog entry....

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