Submitted by David Cooley
Today I and two other VFP members were bannering outside the MPLS VA to Stop Privatization of VA Healthcare. AFGE had hoped to join us after their meeting, but that was not to be. We also had flyers to hand out. We bannered from the public sidewalk and handed out flyers to drivers waiting to go into the VA. The VA police which had said we'd be OK came back and said we could banner, but not go into the street to hand out flyers. The VA police which were sympathetic but doing their job thought we might give out flyers at the light rail line that runs between the street/sidewalk and the VA, unless transit police stopped us. It wasn't long before the VA police were back, someone complained of us being out there to the director of the VA, there was a quick regional VA conference call or something like that and it led to the total shut down of our bannering.
The VA co-owns the street/sidewalk with the county. The VA owns both sides of the street. There is a second street leading to the VA, but the direction blocked to our use gets 85% of the traffic in and out of the VA. Access to our primary audience for bannering and flyers has been cut off. Being able to put information on privatization of the VA and contact info of congress people to call, directly into the hands of veterans is critical to a chance of success for our effort. Right now I'm feeling irritated and less optimistic.
I did stop at a Legion post and a VFW on my way back home and got a moderate response, but also some help, names and numbers of lobbyists on the state level with the respective organizations. They didn't seem to get it that numbers of veterans calling their representatives and senators from the local level means more than a paid lobbyist doing the contacting. Will have to do it another and/or multiple ways. I made up a flyer with all the Minnesota US representatives and senators, and US House Veterans Affairs committee members plus contact info for the lead (R) & (D) on the committee. The same needing to be done for the Senate. Giving that info to a veteran makes it far more likely they'll make a call, make it easy.
I'll be checking out the St. Cloud VA Medical Center soon after the coming snow and cold have eased.