NEW YORK — Eighteen grandmothers tried to enlist in the Army here Oct. 17, and were arrested for disorderly conduct after staging a sit-in.

When the grandmothers, ranging in age from 60 to 90, found that recruiters had locked the doors at the Times Square recruitment office and would not let them enter, the feisty group sat down in front of the office, surrounded by dozens of supporters. They were arrested for disorderly conduct, handcuffed and jailed.

“We wanted to go instead of the youth,” said Lil Rydell, one of the women arrested. “I wanted to enlist so they could send some of our grandchildren back home. I thought that I have led a very productive life and wanted the young people who were in the Army to be able to do the same thing.”

Joan Wile, director of Grandmothers Against the War and an organizer of the Times Square event, told the World, “We all feel the same way. It’s not even that we all have grandchildren who are immediately in danger in Iraq. It’s a feeling that all those kids over there, American and Iraqi alike, it breaks our hearts. Heartbreak is the best word.

“We’re concerned about all the grandchildren, not just our own,” Wile said. “I have two grandchildren, 15 and 18, that I’m concerned about. All the harm that this war is doing to America bothers us, too.”

Some of the women showed up with their walking canes, and one woman had a walker. One of them, Marie Runyon, age 90, is nearly blind. Some were members of the Gray Panthers or Raging Grannies, groups that also participated in the action.

When the grandmothers arrived at Times Square, about 100 supporters were there waiting for them. After singing a few anti-Bush songs and “God Bless America,” they headed to the recruiting station.

“The doors were locked so I rang the buzzer, and rang and rang,” Wile said. “Nobody answered. However I did see a head nervously look up and duck down a few times. They were hiding. We scared the U.S. military!”

When no one would answer the door, the 18 grandmothers sat down.

“That was the hardest part of the whole action,” said Wile. “We old ladies with our arthritis and replacement hips, that is hard. One woman just crouched.”

The women were handcuffed, put into police trucks and taken away. Members of the group said several police officers seemed upset at having to arrest grandmothers, and were “generally nice.” However, the conditions the women found themselves in were not.

They were taken to a precinct and put into jail cells. “Two each in these really awful, dank little cells, with one board to sit on and one toilet,” Wile said. “They took everything away from us — we had nothing to eat, drink or read. We were just sitting there, with nothing, for hours.”

“At one point I called to a matron,” Wile continued. “The police were great, but the matrons were not. I yelled out that I was a diabetic and it wasn’t good for me to go so long without eating something. Eventually they brought me a cupcake and a glass of water.”

Rydell said she thought the arrests and jail time were worth it, “even though we were not allowed to enlist.” At least, she said, they had sent a message.

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