Volume 76, Number 36 | January 31 - February 6, 2007

Villager photos by Roberto Mercado

Lower East Siders debark from their bus in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, above. Councilmember Rosie Mendez is in bottom row, second from right, in red jacket and flashing peace sign.

Star power and L.E.S. power too at D.C. rally

By Lincoln Anderson

Among the tens of thousands of protesters and Hollywood glitz at last Saturday’s rally against the Iraq War were a vocal Lower East Side/East Village contingent of about 40, including their councilmember, Rosie Mendez.

Mendez said the early-morning bus trip to Washington and the rally made for “a long day,” but it was worth it.

“I think of our being there as representing many of my constituents who are in the district who oppose the war who couldn’t make it [to the rally] that day,” she said.

Mendez said the highpoint was when they were riding the Metro subway back from the rally and a man came up to Betty Brassell, recognizing her from the “Granny Peace Brigade” sign pinned on her back and her poster-festooned walker as one of the Grandmothers Against the War.

“He asked, ‘Are you one of the grannies who got arrested?’ He said, ‘I’m so proud of you, I’m so glad to meet you,’” said Mendez. Brassell and a group of other grandmothers made headlines when they were arrested at the Times Square recruiting station in October 2005 after offering to enlist in place of young recruits. The grandmothers said they’d already lived full lives, and would gladly take the place of the young in facing death in Iraq. “She’s the rock star,” Mendez said of Brassell, in her late 70s, who was interviewed and videotaped several times during the rally.

A man held a photo of a U.S. officer killed in Iraq, with a pair of military boots adding to the symbolism.

Speaking of stars, Jane Fonda was among several celebrity movie actors who spoke at the event. She said it was the first time she had spoken out against a war in 34 years, remaining silent because she feared her critics would use her protest to hurt the peace movement. In opposing the Vietnam War, Fonda infamously sat astride a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, earning the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and which she later called a mistake.

Fonda shared an embrace with Reverend Jesse Jackson while actor Sean Penn looked on. Chelsea actor couple Susan Sarandon, right, and her husband, Tim Robbins, also spoke, with Robbins compellingly arguing for President Bush’s impeachment.

Local Congressmember Jerrold Nadler also joined the protest, grabbing an end of the United for Peace and Justice banner, at the far right.

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