Protest continues despite Hurricane Sandy
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
WASHINGTON — Veterans and members of the Occupy VA movement have anchored themselves at the front doors of the Department of Veterans Affairs building, even as Hurricane Sandy approached.
“We’ve been here for three weeks, and we ain’t going anywhere,” John Penley, 60, of Washington, said. “A hurricane can’t drive us out of here.”
The Occupy VA group has been camped in front of the VA office since Oct. 4, when they asked to meet with its officials. Two veterans of Occupy met with representatives from the VA on Oct. 15, but the vets said they were not satisfied with the meeting.
The veterans are concerned about vets and soldiers who have been committing suicide in record numbers. They are also concerned about homeless and jobless veterans, as well as veterans who need benefits and medical attention, but are living on the street.
Occupiers bundled up in layers of sweaters and jackets and then snuggled into sleeping bags with layers of tarps under an awning at the VA’s main entrance as a steady rain pelted the city and temperatures dropped. A van and small moving truck were scheduled to arrive at the building, just across Lafayette Square from the White House, where the occupiers were planning to take turns keeping warm and drying off during the storm.
Penley, a Navy veteran, said the group wants to make suggestions for improving the VA system, even if they have to ride out the storm.
“It may not make sense on the surface, but you’re not talking about a group of folks who are extremely vulnerable,” John Zangas, 53, of Washington, said. “In this case, they’re determined to get their point across. There isn’t a person out here who isn’t soaked down to the bone.”
Kristopher Rivera is a multimedia journalism major at UTEP. He is currently interning at Scripps Howard Foundation’s Semester in Washington program. He may be reached at email@example.com.