A Toy Solider Protest Against Iraq War

A Chicago-area resident is protesting the Iraq War by leaving green plastic toy soldiers around town with anti-war messages on them. Sallie Gratch asks people to contact her when they find the soldiers, and then to leave them someplace else themselves.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now a story about an unusual anti-war protest. Tiny green plastic soldiers are showing up all over Chicago. A sticker on each figure pleads, `Bring me home.' NPR's Jason DeRose found the woman who's leaving those soldiers in bookstores and cafes.

JASON DEROSE reporting:

A poster in the second-floor window of Sally Gratch's stately Victorian home in Evanston, Illinois, reads `Wage peace,' as does a sign in the neatly landscaped front yard. And inside, the dining room table looks as though the retired social worker and grandmother of 10 is planning a military invasion.

(Soundbite of plastic soldiers being emptied)

Ms. SALLY GRATCH: So what we have here is really--this is really a third of what was once here. Not less than a week ago, two huge boxes of 40 gross of these things arrived and they've gone out that fast.

DEROSE: That's thousands upon thousands of inch-high green plastic soldiers. But she didn't stick a sticker on all of those herself.

Ms. GRATCH: I worked on this through my synagogue, the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, in Evanston. And through our peace dialogue, we decided to take on this project of taking these little soldiers, getting the labels on them, packing them in little snack bags of about eight to 10 each and then passing them out at the high holidays to our congregation.

DEROSE: The project has continued past Yom Kippur and has now taken on something of a life of its own. Sally says she just can't stop engaging in this miniature protest whenever she leaves her home. Earlier this week, I accompanied Sally as she ran some errands, which these days also means plotting where to put soldiers.

We're sitting here in your car. We're about to go out and place some of these soldiers. Where are you thinking that we might head?

Ms. GRATCH: Well, I thought we'd head down Church Street. There's a wonderful camping store there, and I think the counter is just waiting for something.

DEROSE: Sally says since she needs to place the soldiers covertly, I can't record her inside any of the stores, but this is what happens. While browsing in the camping store, she pulls a little soldier out of the pocket of her purple raincoat and leaves it next to some key chains. In the shoe store, she places some in the window and among the boots on display. And in the bookstore, she sets them on shelves among the magazines and fancy notebooks.

(Soundbite of coffee machine)

DEROSE: Inside the Unicorn Cafe in downtown Evanston, Sally leaves a soldier in a pile of brownies and one near the orange marmalade. Over coffee and cranberry scones, she explains why she just can't stop after more than a month of engaging in this silent tiny protest.

Ms. GRATCH: You know, there's so much within this story about making a statement in the most gentle way, of introducing people to a form of protest. To some, it might be their first time of making a statement. For others, it may be a very civilized way of guerrilla warfare.

DEROSE: Sally Gratch says if someone sees her leaving a soldier and gets upset, she just apologizes, picks it up and moves on. She won't let that stop her. She says she plans to continue her toy soldier protest until the plea on the bottom of each figure, `Bring me home,' is answered. Jason DeRose, NPR News, Chicago.

BRAND: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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