Marie Runyon is unhappy with the way her disorderly conduct trial is progressing. The 91-year-old member of the "Granny Peace Brigade" is one of 18 women on trial in Manhattan on charges of blocking access to the military recruitment center at Times Square last year.
"I don't know what the hell is going on," Ms. Runyon, who is partly blind and a little deaf, said. "It's too much questioning. I don't know what they're trying to do, unless it is to trick someone."
There has been a lot of questioning. The trial finished its fourth day yesterday, with two young assistant district attorneys attempting to prove that the mostly elderly defendants had planned on being arrested on the day of their protest, October 17.
The defendants said they intended to enlist in the Army to take the places of younger enlistees who were headed for Iraq. When they arrived at the recruitment center, they said, they found the door locked. Their attorney, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel, argued that the women never actually blocked the ramp leading up to the recruitment center. Also, he said they had a right to protest without being told to disperse.
With a hand sometimes cupped to her ear, Ms. Runyon did her best yesterday to follow what her co-defendants had to say.
The testimony of Beverly Rice, 68, suggested that although the women had hoped to attract as much attention as possible, they had not planned be arrested.
Ms. Rice, a veteran of many protests and political causes, said she had hoped the rally at the recruitment center would be a peaceful forum for her to protest against the "whole mess in Iraq." She has said she won't pay any fines or perform any community service if the judge orders her to do so.
All the defendants refused an offer last Friday that would have dismissed the disorderly conduct charges if they refrained from breaking any laws over the next six months. If convicted, they face 15 days in jail or a $250 fine.
"They could have let us in to sign the papers," Ms. Rice said, referring to how the "Granny Peace Brigade" found itself locked out of the recruitment center. "And then later we would get something in the mail saying that we are too old."
One of the prosecutors, Artie McConnell, asked her if she thought enlistment was a "viable option."
Ms. Rice, who had double hip replacement surgery last month, responded: "Well, it would have been interesting."
©2006 New York Sun