Antiwar grannies sing at trial

TUCSON, Ariz. — Four local peace activists were sentenced to eight hours of community service Nov. 2 for their part in a nonviolent antiwar protest at the Raytheon Missile Systems Plant south of here March 20, the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Pima County Justice Court Judge Maria Felix accepted the defendants’ no-contest pleas to the charge of obstructing the highway outside the plant. Four other charges were dismissed.

In an unusual move, before the hearing began, Judge Felix invited members of the Raging Grannies peace and justice group to sing. The Grannies — grandmothers and women old enough to be grandmothers — were among nearly two dozen supporters who had rallied outside the court house and now filled the small courtroom.

The judge grinned as they sang one of their trademark antiwar parodies (to the tune of “God Bless America”):

“God help America / We need you bad / ’Cause our leaders are cheaters / and they’re making the world really mad. / Climbing mountains, crossing oceans. / And invading foreign soil / God help America, no blood for oil / God forgive America, no blood for oil.”

Sentenced were Gretchen Nielson, Bill Moeller, Pat Birnie and Jack McPherson. Two absent co-defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

Addressing the court, Birnie said: “Because I consider the U.S. military actions in Iraq to be immoral and illegal by U.S. law as well as international law, I am ashamed and distraught that a local business, Raytheon Missiles Systems, is participating in and profiting from the human suffering their products cause in Iraq. … I will not willingly allow, by my silence, these atrocities to continue.”

Nielsen recited a poem asking, “Where is the leader of the meek?” McPherson said he participated in the blockade of the munitions plant “to express solidarity with the tens of thousand innocent civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Raytheon is not as they would have you believe — a defender of freedom and democracy — but rather are in the business of killing for profit.”