Some motorists honk and give them a thumbs-up sign.
Others shout profanities and hold up another finger.
Never mind the critics. Grandmothers for Peace will be back on the street next week toting peace signs in an effort, they say, to salvage the future for younger generations.
"We're wanting a livable world for our grandchildren," says Marilyn Jones, one of the sign-carriers.
Since fall, a dozen or more assemble every Tuesday during afternoon rush hour in front of Lunds in Edina. Dressed in parkas, warm hats and sensible shoes, they brave the cold from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Most have spoken out publicly before about what they believe, many as peace marchers during the Vietnam War.
Now, Iraq is their Vietnam.
"A War? Think About That!" reads one in a row of mostly homemade signs crafted with poster board and markers. "A Preemptive Strike Won't Solve the Problem," says another. And on the flip side, "Think About the Children!"
Their wish for children isn't just for their descendants. They are concerned for Iraqi children, many deprived of adequate food and medicine because of U.S.-imposed sanctions. War will make that situation worse, the grandmothers say, along with its more brutal realities.
Their reach extends beyond the public sidewalk in front of Lunds. Most in the growing ad-hoc group are also involved in organizations that make up the 44-member Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers. Several participate in a weekly Wednesday-night demonstration on the Marshall-Lake Street bridge in Minneapolis. And some took buses to the peace rally in the nation's capital Jan. 18.
The grandmothers and others much like them have emerged as the key players in a larger Twin Cities peace movement largely fueled by older women, observers say. At the same time, they're passing experience and expertise on to younger women, especially college students joining the ranks of marches, vigils and rallies.
"Not to denigrate the men, but it's the women who are the movers and shakers," says Will Shapira, a media consultant to the alliance. "Almost every organization contains a woman of that age, and they are tireless in trying to prevent this war from happening."
And what exactly is that age?
"We're old," says Mary White, who is outgoing president of the alliance. "I'm 69. Some are older and some younger," ranging into their 80s.
White got involved with Grandmothers for Peace before she was a grandmother. Now that she has grandsons -- ages 7 and 8 -- her activism takes on yet another dimension.
"I look at these two precious grandsons, and I think, the world's not getting better," she says. "It's getting more frightening. What we're allowing our government to do is based on fear, and we're not thinking of the long-term consequences of our policy. Instead of taking war to Iraq, we should be taking food."
For almost two decades, the group has met monthly at the Edina Public Library to hear speakers and engage in discussion of social justice and international issues. The group now is affiliated with a national organization by the same name -- Grandmothers for Peace International. The Twin Cities group meets the first Wednesday of each month at 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes before civil defense test sirens sound.
"It's a time to talk about our concerns for the world," White says. Last fall, when the Bush administration turned up the volume on talk of war with Iraq, the members added action, hitting the streets to spread their philosophy.
Not everyone who shows up at Lunds carrying a sign is a grandmother or has ties to Grandmothers for Peace. Friends, neighbors and other empathizers bundle up to come along and wave peace signs. Occasionally, a grandchild participates. So do some husbands, who consider themselves an "auxiliary" to the all-women's group.
"It's the reverse of the norm," says Tom White, who sometimes accompanies wife Darlene. "You don't get in the way of the grannies when they're moving. Their vision is of a safer world for our children and grandchildren than what they see now."
Some people say they're unpatriotic. The grandmothers say they're merely exercising their right of free speech to fight for what they believe.
Darlene White, 67 and grandmother of two, sees her activism as a way to spread hope in an increasingly scary world. "We need so much hope in these days of war-clanging," she says.
They're gathering more and more supportive voices, she says. Some passers-by stop along the sidewalk to chat about their mutual anti-war stance. Others double back to offer cookies and hot chocolate to the grandmothers.
And a poll released earlier in January showed only a third of Americans support a war in Iraq without United Nations approval.
Marian Wright, 70 and grandmother to seven, sees her work as a legacy. "I like to think I'm leaving something for my grandchildren. That they'll remember me as someone who didn't just sit back and watch the world go by but tried to do something about it."
The grandmothers hope they're informing others. They consider their weekly appearance more of a presence than a protest, says Marilyn Jones, 72 and grandmother of six.
"It's a way of standing up in front of strangers and saying, 'This is how I feel. I have very big concerns about the possibility of having this war and the ramifications of it."'
And what do her six grandchildren think?
"All their lives, they've seen me be somewhat active in the peace movement," she says. "It's what they're used to. It's Nana."
On the Net: http://www.grandmothersforpeace.org
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