Saturday, October 31, 2015

Derek's Day in DC

On Tuesday, 10/27 and Wednesday, 10/28, I went to Washington DC to scout locations for the upcoming operation known as Operation Get SMART, an event to be held the first week of April 2016 as well as shoot video for a couple of upcoming projects. (It was also a bit of an early birthday present for myself, a I turned 39 on October 31).

Since Dennis Sobin from the Safe Streets Arts Foundation offered a hand and has already posted a video of my trip online, I thought I would discuss my trip. My primary goal was to scout the locations of the April operation. The theme for the ad is calling in the Calvary and it is time we take chaaaarge on DC. After all, John Walsh and the legislators have declared war on registered citizens and their families long ago, and it is time we fight back. 

After talking with Dennis Sobin, we made plans to visit the US Senate offices, stating with my senator, Rob Portman, who was among the first to meet John Walsh as he is lobbying for more funding for the Adam Walsh Act. I, for one, have not tried lobbying in Washington so I figured I'd try to meet a senator or two. If Johnny can do it, I can at least give it a whirl. 

It was actually Dennis's idea that I wear the Calvary uniform (I rented it only to cut a promo for OpGetSMART), but it turned out to be a good idea, It certainly got attention, and it became a talking point to curious legislative aides in each of the 16 offices. Dennis decided to film the experience in hopes that my fellow activists will find the experience encouraging. Keep in mind this was a rather spur-of-the-moment decision so I had little preparation time. Dennis printed out some of those "Cost of the AWA" brochures from the SOSEN website for me and we rode to the Russell Senate Building to start with Sen. Portman. 

You can see Dennis's video here:

Senators are busy folks but their offices have secretaries or legislative aides manning the office at all times. With cameras rolling, I pitched my idea to abolish the AWA, or at least defund it, and offered a brochure. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I reached the office of VA Senator Mark Warner. The staff there were a bit standoff-ish but I left my brochure and moved on to the next office. It was then we were approached by two Capitol Cops. They are like the Keystone Cops but they are at the Capitol, so lets call them the Kapitol Kops. 

So the Kapitol Kops stopped us because one of the guys in the Virginia Office apparently took offense to Sobin filming the meetings. After all, they asked him to leave and after they told him to stop filming, she stood outside the office while I talked to them. They must have been stalling me to get them there. These Kapitol Kops weren't the worst I've seen but I was very unimpressed with the black female cop. She asked me why I was there, and so I offered the same statement I was giving everyone that day, that I wanted the Adam Walsh Act repealed in favor of evidence-based laws. The female cop then made the snide remark "That'll  never happen," so I reminded her that if laws were always subject to popular opinion, slavery would never have been abolished. It seems she got the message. 

Dennis Sobin got the names of the Kapitol Kops and promised to contact the ACLU about it. Sobin left to attend other meetings so I stayed behind to continue my mission to visit the offices of US Senators and pass out brochures. 

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful as I visited the rest of the offices before I ran out of fliers. Aside from the Virginia office, everyone listened to my speech, took my brochure, and thanked me for stopping by. No one was rude to me, and they were all curious as to who this guy was entering their office in a civil war uniform. I saw both Alabama Senator offices, Ted Cruz's office, the North Dakota office (complete with bison head because they "love their Buffaloes"), and ending my day at the office of Mike Lee of Utah. There was a lone female secretary in the office so it was obvious the Senator wasn't available. But, it was my last brochure so I gave my usual speech. The secretary seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, and instead of the usual three minute blurb, the conversation  lasted about half an hour, and i was asked a lot of good questions. I left that day feeling hopeful that if a few more of us took the time to do stuff like this,, we could make waves even in a place like Washington DC.

On April 5 and 6, 2016, I will be back in DC, and I hope a few more anti-registry activists will join me. You can join me as we demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court, or you can spend the day walking the halls of the legislature like I did. Bring your own Union soldier costume-- it was a hit for me :)

-- A big assist came from Dennis Sobin of the Safe Streets arts Foundation AND the Idiots Registry.