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Anti-War Protesters Cleared in Tank Case

by Aimee Green

Two anti-war protesters who stood in front of a rose-laden tank during last year's Grand Floral Parade had their legal troubles wiped away by a judge Monday.

Bonnie Tinker, 60, and Sara Graham, 67 -- two members of the "Seriously P.O.'d Grannies" -- were charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with police after they held up anti-war signs in front of the tank in the middle of the parade.

"I don't think freedom of speech is disorderly," Tinker said.

The Northeast Portland residents, who are partners and grandmothers, said they urged the Rose Festival not to include the World War II-era tank in the family oriented parade, but their request was denied.

Tinker said the tank was meant to build support for the Iraq war by connecting it to World War II.

"Any time a tank is in a city street, that should cause alarm in people, not generate applause and cheering," she said. Tinker said she was especially offended by the tank because it had roses and other flowers cascading out of the barrel of its gun.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Alicia Fuchs dismissed the case after Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Puskar asked for an additional day. Puskar said police officers scheduled to testify didn't show up because they mistakenly thought the trial was set for today.

Graham was one of five members of the Grannies acquitted in another anti-war protest case in December. The five were charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief for using red paint in April 2007 to write the number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq on the windows of a military recruitment center in Northeast Portland. A jury acquitted them in 30 minutes.

Although Tinker and Graham were arrested under accusations of misdemeanor crimes for the parade incident, the district attorney's office reduced the charges to violations, essentially tickets that carry a cash fine. Jeff Howes, supervisor of the misdemeanor trial unit for the prosecutor's office, said his office "acted with discretion and restraint."

Tinker's attorney, Stuart Sugarman, however, said he thought prosecutors reduced the charges to violations to avoid a jury trial. Sugarman noted the crushing results from December, when the prosecutor's office presented the red-paint "Grannies" case to the jury.

Sugarman and Graham's attorney, Thaddeus Betz, represented their clients pro bono.

Aimee Green; aimeegreen@news.oregonian.com

© 2008 The Oregonian

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