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Grannies and Pro-War Activists Clash in Times Square

Emily Chasan

NEW YORK - Grannies holding a knit-in to protest the war in Iraq clashed in a shouting match with pro-war activists in Times Square on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the start of the conflict.0320 03

About 30 member of the Granny Peace Brigade, some sitting in rocking chairs and wheelchairs, were knitting stump socks for veteran amputees and baby clothes for Iraqi families at the Times Square military recruiting station that was damaged by a small bomb on March 6.

"You want a piece of granny?" Frederick Olbrey, 70, yelled at about half a dozen war supporters gathered across the way as the grandmothers sang "God Bless America."

Olbrey, a 1950s air force veteran, was campaigning with the granny brigade to demand that troops be brought home now.

"I think that the grannies have the right idea, but they don't want victory, they don't want our mission accomplished in Iraq," said Rock Peters, one of the pro-war organizers who said he supported the war so Iraqis could have democracy.

Granny groups in 20 cities were holding similar protests at recruitment centers and veteran hospitals, the brigade said.

"It is the beginning of the sixth year of the war. We are trying to draw attention to the uselessness, the horror of the war, and the fact that we wise old babes know that it is a terrible thing," said Joan Wile, one of the founders of the group.

"We want other people to realize it and take action as we have done," the 76-year-old explained.

Wile said the grannies, who ranged in age from 60 to 93 years old, are concerned about polls that show the economy is upper most in the minds of Americans, not the conflict in Iraq.


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"That upsets us very much because for us the war is number one and has been and you cant solve the problems of the economy as long as billions of dollars are being poured down the Iraq drain," Wile said.

The brigade consists of a core group of grandmothers who have been protesting against the war at the Time Square center since Oct 2005, when they tried to enlist in the Army to replace the young men and women who were being deployed in Iraq.

"We tried to enlist and they wouldn't let us in. We've had long lives. We don't want our young grandchildren, or all the grandchildren, to have to sacrifice their lives, so we thought lets replace them," said the grandmother of five.

After refusing police requests to move from the center the grannies were arrested, sent to jail for a few hours and charged with disorderly conduct. After a six-day trial they were acquitted.

"That group, the 18 grandmothers who got arrested, became the Granny Peace Brigade," explained Wile, adding that more grandmothers have since joined the organization.

In addition to the knit-in, the brigade has held numerous protests and conducts phone-a-thons to urge politicians to stop funding the war.

"We also even have a show that we perform," said Wile.

Reporting by Emily Chasan; editing by Patricia Reaney

© 2008 Reuters

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