NYT: Punishing Elderly War Protesters Would Put "Grandmotherhood on Trial"

April 28th, 2006 12:09 PM

Amazing. The day after Anemona Hartocollis's puff piece on the court appearance of 18 anti-war 'grannies' accused of blocking an entrance to a military recruitment center in Times Square, the Times follows up with front-page coverage of their aquittal("New York Judge Tells Grannies To Go in Peace").

"They came, they shuffled, they conquered. "Eighteen 'grannies' who were swept up by the New York City police, handcuffed, loaded into police vans and jailed for four and a half hours were acquitted yesterday of charges that they blocked the entrance to the military recruitment center in Times Square when they tried to enlist.

"After six days of a nonjury trial, the grandmothers and dozens of their supporters filled a courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court to hear whether they would be found guilty of two counts of disorderly conduct for refusing to move, which could have put them in jail for 15 days. The women call their group the Granny Peace Brigade and said they wanted to join the armed forces and thus offer their lives for those of younger soldiers in Iraq.

"The women -- from 59 to 91, many gray-haired, some carrying canes, one legally blind, one with a walker -- listened gravely and in obvious suspense as Judge Neil E. Ross delivered a carefully worded 15-minute speech in which he said his verdict was not a referendum on the Police Department, the defendants' antiwar message or, indeed, their very grandmotherhood."

Hartocollis at least mentions today that these women aren’t just random old apoliticals, but have past histories of (left-wing) political activism, though she casts those histories in particularly glowing terms:

"The trial was extraordinary, if only because it gave 18 impassioned women -- some of whom dated their political activism to the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg -- a chance to testify at length about their antiwar sentiments and their commitment to free speech and dissent, in a courtroom that attracted reporters from France and Germany. Despite the judge's demurrals, the verdict was one in a series of victories for protesters who have been arrested by the New York police since the invasion of Iraq."

Hartocollis repeats her ludicrous argument that punishing the elderly protestors would be tantamount to punishing grandmotherhood, or something:

"The defendants called themselves 'grannies' because they are all old enough to be grandmothers, even if some of them are not, and because in their view, grandmothers are a core American value, as patriotic as mom and apple pie. Essentially, Judge Ross had found himself with grandmotherhood on trial in his courtroom. He seemed to acknowledge his dilemma when he said, in his decision, This case is not a referendum on future actions at the location in question, on police tactics nor the age of the defendants or the content of their message.'"

Hartocollis concludes with more sap:

"When it was over, the grannies seemed ready to do it again. 'The decision today says the First Amendment protects you to protest peacefully,' Mr. Siegel said, addressing his clients outside the courthouse after the verdict. 'So -- go do it!' And the grannies cheered."

How sweet.

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.