NEW YORK — Eighteen antiwar protesters who call themselves the Granny Peace Brigade went on trial Thursday for staging a rally in Times Square last year, with the prosecution saying the case was about disorderly conduct -- not war.
The defendants, some supporting themselves on canes and walkers, entered the small courtroom packed with about 75 supporters. They are each charged with two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an Oct. 17, 2005, protest against the Iraq war outside the military recruiting station in Times Square.
They are being tried as a group in a nonjury trial before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross.
The women -- several in their 80s and 90s -- wore buttons that read: "Granny Peace Brigade" and "Love the Troops, Hate the War." Some wore T-shirts that said: "We will not be silent."
"This case is simple and straightforward," Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy Miller said in her opening statement. "It's not about the war; it's about disorderly conduct."
She said the defendants sat in front of the recruiting station, obstructed pedestrian traffic and refused to disperse as ordered. Miller said this prevented others from going in or out of the center.
Defense attorney Norman Siegel countered that "this trial is about the actions of 18 defendants, many of whom are grandmothers. Their intent was to alert an apathetic public about the war in Iraq."
Siegel told the judge that the defendants had a right to protest and to sit in front of the recruiting center. He said the defense had witnesses and a videotape showing that the door opened for one man who went in.
"They did not break any laws," he said. "They were respectful, orderly, justified and patriotic."
The trial is expected to last several days. If found guilty, the women could be fined $250 or sentenced up to 15 days in jail.