February 2008

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Dr. Gertrude Copperman, 85, held a sign that said, US Out of Iraq. while John Cunningham, of Haverford, argued his views in favor of the war. (Photo by Krystle Marcellus / The Bulletin)
Networking Central

The Granny Peace Brigade Wants You!

-- Ben Burrows

The Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia is one of those organizations you never hear about until somebody gets arrested. In one of their more famous protests (June 28, 2006), eleven grandmothers and a crowd of supporters went to the Military Recruitment Center in Philadelphia to "enlist" in the United States military. The grannies told the recruiter they wanted to enlist "so that our grandchildren would not kill or be killed in Iraq." When they refused to leave without enlisting, they were arrested and charged with Defiant Trespass. On December 1, 2006, Judge Deborah Griffin dismissed the charges, affirming the legality of their non-violent protest. Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia continues to meet together and protest war-making in Iraq and elsewhere.

Official meetings are every two weeks, and protest activities occur almost every week. Locations vary according to availability. Interested participants are advised to check the website for time and place. The organization does not discriminate on the basis of possessing grandchildren, nor on the basis of age.

Grannies Participate in National Mobilization to End the War in Iraq

The Granny Peace Brigade recently marched with the Liberty Circle Comic Club, receiving wide exposure and a receptive engagement from spectators. There were no arrests.

Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia marches with Liberty Comic Club at Mummers Parade. Photo courtesy of Jean Haskell.

Four activists agreed to talk about their backgrounds, and hope to attract a still larger contingent to coming discussions, activities, and protests.

Marlena Santoyo, 70 years young, describes herself as a Jewish Quaker social justice activist. Marlena is active with Jewish Voice for Peace and believes that all people are chosen. In October of 2005, Marlena was the Green Party candidate for Pennsylvania State Representative in the 200th district. She would like readers of PJV to believe and go forward, knowing that each and every one of us can make a difference. She is deeply disappointed with the current Congressional leadership, and saddened that Philadelphia's Jewish Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has not been a forthright critic of the Iraq War. "It is with grass roots pressure, demonstrating in the streets, writing letters, visiting and speaking personally our representatives in Washington DC that we the people will lead Congress to stop selling our grandchildren's future by funding wars."

Goldie Petkov comes from a family of union activists, who felt strongly enough about her Jewish heritage to send her to a labor-oriented Yiddische Kinderschule when she was growing up. Her first protest was to throw stink-bombs into an auditorium at Southern High School, to break up a meeting a teacher had organized for the Nazi-oriented America First movement. (She was not apprehended.) A union activist herself in the 1940s, Goldie took up the Civil Rights movement and the Women's Strike for Peace in the 1960's. She has involved herself for many years with Americans for Democratic Action. Goldie appreciates the many ideas discussed at the Granny Peace Brigades, and enjoys the opportunities it affords to influence the public and to take public actions. She is proud that she was able to influence City Council in its resolution to expeditiously withdraw troops from Iraq. She finds it hard to understand Jewish support for conservative positions, and especially for the positions of President George W. Bush. Fighting into her 80's, Goldie encourages others to expand the influence of common people working together.

Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia marches with Liberty Comic Club at Mummers Parade. Photo courtesy of Jean Haskell, 2008.
Jean Haskell began protesting against nuclear testing in the 60's with the Washington Women's Strike for Peace, knowing that the strontium-90 fallout would eventually contaminate the breast milk feeding her baby. She has five grandchildren, one at aged 16, who might be called up for a draft, to support the war in Iraq. Jews, she thinks have a special obligation to Tikkun Olam. I wish a million grandmothers would come out to protest, to show Congress we are not an isolated group, and should not be taken so lightly," she said. Haskell runs her own business consultancy, specializing in team building, leadership development, executive coaching, transition management, career and management development. Jean was an early member of the Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia. Jean has long worked with Americans for Democratic Action, where she served in leadership positions. On a recent Biden campaign stop in Philadelphia, Haskell challenged the senator, "You claim to have learned at your father's knee to stand up to dictators. Are you willing to stand up to George Bush and refuse to fund the war?"

Dr. Gertrude Copperman began at 14 to work for progressive causes, with the American Student Union, the Young Communist League, with additional coaching from her two older brothers. At Girls High School, she helped organize a relocation of the Senior Prom from the Bellevue Hotel, where blacks could not attend, to a friendly country club with a more inclusive outlook. In the 1940's this was no mean feat. In medical school, she helped form a Medical Students Union, and defended a married fellow student, whose wife lived with him in a sex-segregated male dormitory, leading to his temporary expulsion. For defending family values, Copperman was nearly expelled from medical school, and branded a Communist. Copperman graduated as a general practitioner, and served as a physician for more than fifty years. She has involved herself with the civil rights movement, the woman's movement, and was proud to join her daughter in protesting the VietNam war. Copperman now raises funds for the Women's Medical Fund, with readings from her book, I Was a Felon, a collection of autobiographical short stories. The fund provides poor women with funds for medical care (including abortion) for which they might not otherwise have funds.

Past Networking Central Groups of the Month

In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.

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