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A Caravan Of Grandmothers Plans To Go To The Mexico Border To Support Migrants

The group leaving from New York will onboard other “grannies” and allies along the way to support migrating families.

Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden is a movement of grandmothers and their allies who have been similarly spurred to action by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the southern U.S. border. Photo by Tibrina Hobson/EyeEm/Getty Images.

Tina Bernstein remembers the Birmingham Church bombings in 1963 that killed four young schoolgirls. She remembers the fear she felt during the Cuban missile crisis.


“I remember nightmares of being separated from my family, unable to reach them,” the Beacon, New York, resident recalled. “In recent months, those nightmares have come back … they are nightmares of losing my children and granddaughter.”

When she learned about a caravan of concerned grandmothers heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to deliver grandmotherly love to the migrant families there, she saw an opportunity to challenge this nightmare.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]We wanted to push the message that this was more than just left versus right.[/quote]

Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden is a movement of grandmothers and their allies who have been similarly spurred to action by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the southern U.S. border. Over six days, beginning July 31, 2018, their caravan will journey more than 2,000 miles, onboarding other “grannies” along the way. They will host rallies in strategic political districts in cities along the way to protest the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for immigrants and asylum seekers.

Beginning with a rally in New York City, Grannies Respond was planning to make stops in Reading and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Houston, Texas before finally reaching a detainment facility in either McAllen or Brownsville, Texas.

“We wanted to do something to stand apart,” said Dan Aymar-Blair, an organizer who is also executive director and co-founder of The Article 20 Network, which advocates for the freedom of peaceful assembly. “We wanted to push the message that this was more than just left versus right. It’s beyond politics. It’s a matter of basic common sense and humanity and things that are deep, deep in our hearts, not our minds.”

Aymar-Blair said that after learning about the separation and detention of migrant families brought about by Trump’s new policy, a group of like-minded activists began talking about effective ways to respond. They quickly ruled out the traditional sign-waving demonstrations: “Nothing scares them more than people with idle hands,” he said.

Someone suggested putting the idea of grandmotherly concern — and literally grandmothers — at the front of the movement. The idea of the cross-country journey spread in much the way other movements have, taking root on social media and growing from there.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]For us, in the beginning, this was just a bus full of grannies heading to the border.[/quote]

“It can be like a Richard Scarry book: Anybody can come in any vehicle with us,” he said. “Bring their own bus, their own van, their own car,” he said. They are encouraging those coming from other parts of the country to start their own caravans and meet up at the final destination on Aug. 6, 2018.

“For us, in the beginning, this was just a bus full of grannies heading to the border. But there’s the potential, if we can make it go viral, for a lot of people to be part of it. That would be a pretty powerful summer protest.”

Bernstein said it took her a while to come around to the idea. She worried about it seeming like merely a “do-gooder” gesture.

But then the reality of what’s happening to families who fled violence in their home countries only to be separated or prosecuted as criminals once they got here, hit a raw nerve, she said. “As a secular Jew, it was instilled in me that my freedom isn’t guaranteed if other people aren’t free,” she said. “If I don’t stand up for others, who will stand up for me? That principle is very strong.”

“I don’t want to feel that my only role is to support what someone else is doing,” she continued. “I have an activist role to play.”

So she’s riding down to the Texas border not just as an ally but because she believes the future of her own grandchild and others she loves is inextricably linked to a diverse and interwoven fabric of people in this country.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]If I don’t stand up for others, who will stand up for me?[/quote]

Organizers envision the caravan growing along the way as momentum builds with each new stop. “There are people all across the country who are outraged about what is happening. We need to support each other and tell the stories of why this is not OK,” Bernstein said.

“It’s not like our movement or what we’re doing will locate the kids that are missing,” she said. “The intention is to motivate more people … to reinforce the idea that what is happening is unjust and encourage them to support those working toward justice. I’m not sure we’ll be able to impact policies, but maybe we can make an impression on the people we meet along the way.”

The group is keeping a close eye on news coming from the border, with plans to shift and adjust to reflect changes unfolding there. Most of the six planned rallies are in political districts with important political races for the upcoming midterm election or with detention centers — or both.

At the stop in Louisville, Aymar-Blair said, they were planning “to give Mitch McConnell hell.” The Senate majority leader is from there and in recent weeks has been hounded by protesters there over the immigration policies.

A Spanish music teacher on board the bus will teach demonstrators Spanish songs that they might sing outside the detainment facility once they reach the border so that migrants inside know they are there. “The more people come, the louder it will be and the more families will hear us.” Protesters recognize that the disruption could be jarring for children so the idea is still being developed.

Sharon Kutz-Mellem of Louisville has two grandsons who sometimes refer to her as the “grammanator” when she’s being tough on them. She plans to join the caravan when it gets to town.

She volunteers with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which helps resettle refugees. Until a year ago, she was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving two small congregations in rural Indiana. One Sunday in August 2016, after delivering a message about justice and humility, Kutz-Mellem overheard a group of parishioners discussing where to get their Donald Trump yard signs.

She heard a different calling. She retired early and left the church, losing her religion, she said, but not her faith. “I felt like I had failed to teach them the message that Jesus brought to this world, the one that wasn’t about building a wall but about welcoming the stranger, taking care of the sick and poor and widowed and visiting the prisoner; the Jesus who welcomed the little children instead of separating them from their parents and imprisoning them,” she said.

She’s not sure what will happen once she reaches the border, but she’s prepared to get arrested if that’s what it takes to make people pay attention.

“I’m not doing any more marches … I’ve done them all. I’m done,” she said. “We gotta step it up … we’re too deep into the fascism here. And if it means arresting a bunch of old people, fine. Whatever.”

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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Politics