As the election has ended and the campaign ads have dissolved off of the television, most people have gone back to their every day lives and have generally forgotten about the many protests that are still going on even after the election.
One of those protests, an off-shoot of Occupy DC, has been steadily gaining momentum and is gearing up to be one of the biggest Occupy battles we have seen.
Occupy Department of Veteran Affairs began on October 4th of this year after “a group of Veterans went peacefully to the Department of Veterans Affairs with the intention to create a peaceful dialogue with the department. All they wanted was to receive answers to some basic questions, they were told that a representative will be coming out to speak to them. 24 Hours later they have yet to see or speak to someone, this is why the veterans decided to remain in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs until their questions are being answered and their demands are being met.” What the veterans are seeking to discuss with the VA are the increasing suicide numbers among veterans, the status of veterans job rates, the cost of living for veterans including widows and orphans, veteran medical options and to set up A permanent liaison position between Occupy Veterans Affairs and The Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of the veterans there are older and served in the time frame of Vietnam and Desert Storm. I began corresponding with one of them about their current occupation at the VA.
Raymond Voide, a retired USMC and artist, said this of Occupy Department of Veterans Affairs, “First of all, I'm a former active duty Marine, with 8 years of active and Honorable service, so I know of what I speak. Though the, "Occupy the VA" protest is necessary, your story's importance is as to why it's needed. The fact that we still "Occupy," is in part, indicative as to why; all we wanted initially was a meeting with the VA powers-that-be, but that is just, as they say, the tip of the iceberg. However, when DHS (Department of Homeland Security), police and security greeted us at Veteran's Affairs doors, instead of the promised officials who had assured us an ear, it became obvious how deep-rooted our problems are. The VA does not care. Never did, and probably never will. The men and women who serve and served their country, did so because they felt an obligation to do so: patriotism and gratitude, and all that jazz, for all our country used to represent to us. Upon our return to civilian life, and in light of the ways, methods and means by which our military, and those who serve are used and spat out, and the deaf ears that await them when they require services to make them whole and mentally sound as possible, it's no wonder 6,000 to 6,500 veterans commit suicide annually.”
Occupy the Department of Veterans Affairs
Occupy VA protesters marched on the White House. Pictured is Veteran for Peace William Miniutti who faced the DHS power washing the street around him.
Occupy the VA have dealt with more than their fair share of issues out of their control as well. Not only did they trudge through Hurricane Sandy on the street in sleeping bags and tarps, but the Department of Homeland Security decided to pressure wash the sidewalk in front of the VA. According to eye witnesses, even though DHS said that it was a routine hosing, they pressure washed only the one sidewalk that protesters were on. In an act of civil disobedience, Veteran for Peace William Miniuitti decided to face the heavy stream of water and sat on the sidewalk as they hosed it down.
Raymond and William are still at the VA along with many other veterans. You can see Raymond’s website here, and while there can donate money or purchase his original artwork that will go towards helping the Occupation of the VA and other causes.