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Monday, August 26, 2013

Flushing Stereotypical Notions about Grannies Down the Toilet One Protest at a Time

They sing off key, dress like sisters of Minnie Pearl and offer smiles as they take it to the streets.  They are commonly known as the Raging Grannies and in Madison, Wisconsin they are getting arrested and fined as a result of their participation in peaceful protests.  

The Raging Grannies of Madison have joined the Solidarity Singers in Wisconsin at the State Capitol to protest what they consider to be social and economic injustice every weekday at noon since March of 2011.  It looks like the Capitol Police have grown weary of the singing protesters because they have been arresting them, handcuffing them, and writing them $200 - $300  citations - grannies and all.  In fact, grannies, firefighters, ministers - even observers and a journalist have been arrested in the past 30 days. That's a lot of state revenue considering over 200 arrests have already been made.  The protesters are being arrested for a variety of charges including not complying with a court order that requires them to get a permit to assemble. The Raging Grannies and other members of the Solidarity Singers are standing on their 1st Amendment Right to Assembly: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

Who are the Raging Grannies of Madison?  They are a group of relentless senior women who turn the stereotype of the sweet little old lady who is agreeable at every turn and knows how to mind her own business in silence and a rocking chair inside out.  According to their websites, they promote peace, justice, the environment, and social & economic equality through song and humor ...  

Membership is open to all older women who know that "war is stupid" and that for the sake of our children and grandchildren we must sing out for peace, economic & social justice and the environment. We sing primarily in the Madison area, but the Grannies "have songs, will travel" anywhere in the state. We sing wherever we are invited -- and sometimes where we're not!

We are a "dis-organization" without formal leadership. Each Granny does what she can and we make decisions by consensus. As it says on the Raging Grannies International website at, "We are totally non-violent, believe in only peaceful protest (with lots of laughter), work for the 'many not the few' … and see our work as the spreading green branches of a great tree, rising up to provide shelter and nourishment for those who will come after us." That's true -- but we Grannies also want to have fun, refuse to be silenced, and will sing out against those things that harm the planet we will leave to our grandkids.

The first Raging Grannies protesters originated in Canada in 1987 when a group of white, middle class, educated older women came together in reaction to perceived threats posed by the visit of US Navy warships and submarines in the waters surrounding Victoria which were believed to carry or be powered by nuclear reactors and equipment with nuclear arms.   Since then groups have sprung up all across Canada and the US.  They have a "herstory" of employing creative and satirical efforts to raise awareness, challenge authority and protest.  Consider the following excerpt from a thesis written by Ph,D. Candidate Carole Ray:  
"They first experimented with street theater to bring attention to the presence of those US vessels in the harbor.  Then they dressed in lab coat and armed with makeshift Geiger counters and turkey  basters, they tested water puddles for radiation at popular malls.  When curious bystanders asked about their activities they were told about the US vessels in the harbor, which was not in the newspapers."