Vets for Freedom: Report from the Minnesota front

Earlier today, as AP and Michelle posted, a Forest Lake, MN high school rejected Vets for Freedom speakers that had arranged to visit with students, supposedly because of their “political” content. The Forest Lake Senior High School principal Steve Massey had originally agreed to the visit on the promise that the VFF speakers would avoid political topics, a promise that Pete Hegseth and his colleagues fully intended to honor. However, some parents — egged on by outside agitators — convinced the principal to dishonor his promise, and the event got canceled at the last moment.

Instead, some of the students and VFF supporters met at an American Legion hall that volunteered to host them:

At the American Legion building, about a dozen students from the high school sat in the front row and held up signs, saying, “Thanks vets” and “Support our veterans.” Derek Dovolos, 18, was one of them. A senior at Forest Lake Area High School, he plans to join the Army National Guard after graduating. “I knew they were coming to our school, and when I heard that they weren’t coming that made me angry,” he said. “I’m here to support our troops and that’s all that matters.”

Meanwhile, at the high school, the phones were ringing off the hook from people calling to say they disagreed with the school’s decision to cancel the event, said Carissa Fredrickson, Forest Lake school district spokeswoman.

The Forest Lake event turned out to be tremendously successful; so many more people wanted to support the veterans. The VFF had already scheduled an event for tonight at the Fort Snelling Officers Club, but the event got a lot more publicity from the fiasco in Forest Lake. Fortunately, that’s only about ten minutes away from my home, and another meeting we had tonight got postponed. I went to the club expecting to see a few dozen people in a hastily-arranged setting. Instead, I found around 150 or so people crammed into a standing-room only venue. The crowd had to spill out into the foyer, the bar, and two auxiliary rooms to contain all of the Minnesotans who dropped everything to support the VFF speakers.

We did not get disappointed by the event. For two hours, we heard from notables such as Rep. John Kline and a representative of Senator Norm Coleman, State Rep. Bob Dettmer, and Merrilee Carlson from Families United. However, the most powerful speakers were, of course, the veterans: Pete Hegseth, Jeremiah Workman, David Bellavia, and Tim Parks. I got video of Hegseth and Bellavia, as well as John Kline’s address to the group. I’ll be posting each separately tomorrow — and I hope it will prompt people to visit the VFF site and support the group.

And I’m saving Bellavia for last. When you see it, you’ll know why.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the event. Here’s my friends John Hinderaker of Power Line (read his account here), and Sgt_H from our Ed Morrissey Show webchat:

Hinderaker, Sgt_H

Uncle Jimbo from BlackFive:

Uncle Jimbo

Pete Hegseth:

Hegseth