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Portland’s Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them
It’s easy to think protesting is the province of the young, and also easy to dismiss it as the folly of youth.
By Sophia June
A woman in her 70s opens her Wonder Woman umbrella to shield herself from the sun on a sweltering Saturday at the community parade Good in the Hood. She's about to join a dozen other women around her age in a march through the streets of Portland, wearing garden hats pinned with "Black Lives Matter" and "Protest Like It's 1967" buttons.
It's easy to think protesting is the province of the young, and also easy to dismiss it as the folly of youth.
But in the past five years, the Raging Grannies have become a mainstay at Portland social justice events—a group of women 55 and over who dress up as really old women and chant things like, "If your sexuality's not straight/With Grannies you don't have to mourn your fate!"
"We're little old ladies, so people are disarmed. They don't think we're dangerous," says Megan Esler. "But you do not want to piss off the Grannies."
The Raging Grannies began in British Columbia 26 years ago to protest nukes. The Portland "gaggle" was started five years ago during the Occupy Movement. Besides appearing at social justice events, the women also show up at Portland City Council meetings, where at a recent Tenants United rally they performed a five-minute choreographed dance to Black Eyed Peas' "One Tribe."
Megan says the Portland gaggle has particularly taken off since the 2016 election. While the women used to meet in houses, they now have to rent out larger spaces for their monthly meetings.
Many of these women were activists when much younger in the '60s, and now the Raging Grannies give them a platform to get back into activism. Many are also new to Portland, having moved here from places like Texas or Tennessee when their kids did, and have found a haven for liberal ideals in the Grannies.
"We're standing up for minorities," says another Granny who's wearing plastic Ray-Ban-style glasses with the WebMd logo stamped on the sides. "We have privilege and ingrained racism, but we're really trying to address it."