stat counter

Friday, December 28, 2007

Protester "Grannies" Found Not Guilty

Sorry, I didn't catch this one on December 14th, but thought it was still worth posting. Poor recruiting officers on the "inside" who felt "disrespected". Maybe he should try a different job other than recruiting young Americans to participate in an ILLEGAL war!


Likening them to terrorists? PalEEEEEZE!

$275 to clean it up? My sister in law paints holiday windows with tempura paint. You HOSE IT OFF and scrub stubborn paint with a sponge, and VOILA, it's all gone. The fact it was left up for two weeks is the proof of the pudding, this recruitment office is full of a bunch of IDIOTS.

Protester 'grannies' found not guilty

Iraq war - A prosecutor likens five silver-haired activists to the Sept. 11 terrorists; a jury disagrees
Friday, December 14, 2007
The Oregonian Staff

The silver-haired protesters who showed up weekly outside the Northeast Portland military recruiting center last spring typically sat in rocking chairs, holding anti-war signs.

But on Good Friday, half a dozen members of the local group calling itself the Seriously P.O.'d Grannies tried something more radical. Members used red finger paint to leave handprints on a front window, along with the number 3,627 -- the body count of U.S. service members killed in Iraq to that point.

On Thursday, after a three-day trial in which the prosecutor likened them to terrorists, five "Grannies" -- actually, four women and a man, ages 56 to 76 -- were acquitted on misdemeanor criminal mischief charges.

Following the verdict, the peace button-wearing grandparents cried and hugged. DeEtte Beghtol Waleed, 66, said she hoped the verdict would send a message to the government not to waste its resources "prosecuting some grandmas and grandpas for expressing their free speech rights."

The Grannies, it turns out, are part of the most recent surge in the Iraq war: sidewalk sit-ins, face-to-face debates and, in a growing number of cases across the country, all-American grandmotherhood protesting against military recruiters.

The tactic can make life difficult for recruiters, but it's no picnic for police or prosecutors, either. Who, after all, wants to handcuff Grandma or argue a case against her to a jury?

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Seth Steward didn't seem to have trouble this week. In closing arguments Wednesday, he called on the six-member jury to bring back a guilty verdict to "protect our troops."

He warned jurors to "think of some evils that could happen and why it is important for the line to be drawn here. On Sept. 11, some people drove planes into a building to prove a point. The defendants say their conduct is necessary to avoid imminent danger because people are dying in Iraq. That is the same thing suicide bombers say."

It took the jury 30 minutes to acquit the group.

In a similar case, a New York City judge last year acquitted 18 "grannies" charged with blocking the door to a Times Square recruiting center. The women, he ruled, left enough room and had been wrongly arrested.

But there are also recent cases in which nonviolent protesters have been successfully prosecuted for targeting recruitment centers.

Two Austin, Texas, women, for example, were sentenced in April to community service and barred from going within 1,000 feet of a center after they refused police orders to disperse.

Military officials say they have become increasingly aware of the protest focus at recruiting centers this year but stress that they've put no pressure on district attorneys to prosecute.

Calling police "is not our starting point," said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the U.S. Army recruiting command headquarters at Fort Knox, Ky. "Most soldiers understand that protesters are exercising their rights as citizens."

Five refuse to budge

But in Portland, the military did push for the charges against the Grannies, according to the Multnomah County district attorney's office. The armed forces recruitment center wanted to recoup a $275 cleaning bill for the mess left by the protesters at 1317 N.E. Broadway.

Jim Hayden, the deputy district attorney who reviewed the case, said he advised police to make every effort not to arrest the Grannies gathering outside the building. "We felt," if Hayden had to take a case to trial, "that people would sympathize with their cause."

One of the original six defendants handcuffed by police and briefly jailed on Good Friday pleaded guilty and paid the bill. But the other five refused to budge.

During the trial this week, grandma and apple pie seemed as much on trial as the defendants' alleged crime of "third-degree criminal mischief with the intent to cause substantial inconvenience to the U.S. government."

One grandmother said she couldn't wait for the trial to end so that she could bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Two of the defendants repeatedly asked lawyers to repeat questions because they were having a hard time hearing from the stand. Waleed, a 66-year-old retired lawyer representing herself, made a point of mentioning her nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

An exchange between 76-year-old Ann Huntwork, a retired medical social worker, and her attorney, Lisa Ludwig, caused the courtroom filled with supporters to erupt in laughter.

"I want to ask you if you remember the events of April 6," Ludwig said, reminding the jury of her age.

"Yes," said Huntwork, giggling and rolling her eyes behind her thick eyeglasses, "I remember."

Martha Odom's time on the stand was devoid of such lighthearted banter.

"As a mother and grandmother," Odom, 65, testified, "I have this sort of unbreakable pact to ensure my children are safe and healthy. This war is endangering them in so many ways."

The group chose Good Friday, Odom said, because it marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which gave their protest an additional level of symbolism. Red handprints, she explained, are the international symbol for stop.

She said she advocated for using her own blood. However, the group decided on nontoxic, ultra-washable tempera paint, which can be used for everything from finger-painting to window displays.


Although the defendants testified that they hoped to discourage potential recruits from enlisting, they didn't want to damage property or insult soldiers.

But Army recruiter Sgt. Joemer Canlas, who pointed out the "four old ladies" in the courtroom this week, said the handprints affected him "on the inside." Canlas, a combat engineer who served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, added that he'd "rather be back there than here, being disrespected."

Canlas testified that not as many prospects walked through the door in the days after the protest.

During his closing argument for 56-year-old "Granny" Clyde Chamberlain, attorney Robert Callahan ridiculed the prosecution's position by holding up a bottle of red tempera paint. He told the jury that the government was trying to turn a simple bottle of water-soluble paint into "a weapon of mass inconvenience."

If the handprints were indeed a "substantial inconvenience," Ludwig asked, why did the recruiting center leave them on the window for two weeks?

On a separate violation charge, Judge Richard Baldwin did find the group guilty Thursday of applying graffiti and fined them $100 apiece.

In the jury room, no one brought up their opinions of the war, said juror Franklin Baker. Baker said he thought the case was a waste of the court's time and money. "It just seemed excessive," the 30-year-old dishwasher said.

One of the acquitted Grannies, it turns out, has another day in court looming. Sarah Graham, 67, is scheduled to stand trial with another P.O.'d Granny in February.

The charge: Disrupting this year's Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade by lying in the street to block an Army tank. (source)

Video: Two weeks after being acquitted of criminal mischief, the anti-Iraq War group known as the Seriously P.O.'d Grannies return to the same Northeast Portland U.S. military recruiting center where they were arrested in April. (The guy in the hat needs to go hang out with Bush-he has the same cocky head bobbing swagger)

No comments: