In November 2005 several San Francisco Bay Area women, outraged over the Iraq war, established Grandmothers Against the War, with a commitment to end the military presence of the United States in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We invited our community to demonstrate at the U.S. Army headquarters in Oakland and to attempt to enlist in place of our grandchildren. Three hundred fifty women and men, old and young, joined us. Our message was, “Take us instead. Do not sacrifice the lives of our grandchildren in a senseless war.”
Since then Grandmothers Against War has initiated and supported non-violent actions to inspire a greater, more articulate anti-war/pro-peace negotiations movement. Newspaper articles, interviews on local radio shows, and word of mouth have all proven indispensable in arousing interest, as have the group’s public actions and every leaflet we circulate.
With a 14-member steering committee, Grandmothers Against War has a pending application with the IRS for non-profit C4 status. The organization, which people join on a voluntary basis, is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While Grandmothers Against War operates through volunteer efforts, it accepts donations to finance the website, phone, signs, leaflets, bumper stickers, public events, and actions initiated by other organizations.
Grandmothers Against War has held two demonstrations at military recruitment centers, one in Oakland, California on Valentines Day, February 14, 2006 and the other in the suburban city of Pleasant Hill, California, on July 24, 2006. In both actions, the grandmothers attempted to replace the young people currently serving in Iraq by enlisting in the military. For both demonstrations, GAW recruited support from existing organizations, circulated fliers to announce the actions, contacted media sources, informed the local police and recruiters about the intended actions, and leafleted during the demonstrations. However, the two actions differed substantially.
Valentine's Day in Oakland CA
Hoping to coordinate actions across the U.S., GAW contacted grandmothers’ and other peace organizations prior to Valentine’s Day. Eventually, 13 grandmothers’ groups across the nation held actions on Feb. 14. Not all tried to enlist, but everyone focused on ending the conflict in Iraq.
GAW’s demonstration in Oakland was a smashing success. Over 300 “grandmothers” were present, as were singers, chanters, the “Mourning Mothers,” and many other groups, plus the media: print, radio, TV. However, the recruiters weren’t present! After meeting with the grandmothers prior to the action, the Oakland police doubted that the grandmothers had been straightforward about their plans Therefore the police persuaded the recruiters to close the center. (Afterwards, the police apologized profusely for acting hastily and stated that the grandmothers could return to the recruitment center at any time. Of course, the center is now closed!) Reports about the action appeared in the Oakland Tribune, a local newspaper and on TV and radio.
See resources for links to media coverage.
July 24 in Pleasant Hill, CA
Determined not to “preach to the choir,” GAW decided to have its next action at a large recruiting center in a Bay Area suburb. Oakland had only one recruiting center that anti-war activists frequently besieged. Pleasant Hill has recruiting offices for the army, navy, and marines— none of which had ever faced an anti-war group.
Working with the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, a local peace center, GAW prepared for the action as they had in Oakland. This time, however, the army and navy closed their offices — only the marines remained open. The crowd was much smaller than at the Oakland demonstration, the media coverage much less and the weather much hotter!
However, the police issued citations for trespassing to 5 “grandmothers” who wouldn’t leave the office when the marines requested they do so. Despite the fact that the 5 grandmothers wanted their day in court, it was not to be, since the police failed to file charges with the district attorney.
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