It probably hasn't escaped the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation's notice that an awful lot of people are very, very unhappy with the organization lately. Just to drive the point home a little further, reps from MoveOn.org, CREDO Action and UltraViolet announced they'd be hand-delivering a MoveOn petition to the Komen HQ today around noon. Yes, Komen has announced they will "continue to fund existing grants" and "preserve eligibility for future grants," including Planned Parenthood's. And yes, Karen Handel, Komen's vocally anti-Planned Parenthood senior VP for public policy, just announced that she's out. But a tiny, vocal group of protesters -- mainly composed of ladies in the 55-and-up age group -- still gathered outside Komen's LBJ office, many of them holding purple signs that read "Shame on Komen" and "Planned Parenthood Saves Lives." They were outnumbered by police, building security officers and press, who lined up on the grassy median across the street from the building.
"We're thrilled Handel has stepped aside," Dawn Mefert, a MoveOn volunteer told us. But Komen still has a lot of work to do "to repair their brand's standing within the female community," she said. "If you look online, a lot of women are saying they won't give another dime to Komen." And MoveOn wants a commitment that the organization will continue to fund Planned Parenthood not just this year, but into the future.
"They haven't committed beyond 2012," Mefert said. "They're saying Planned Parenthood can reapply, but they haven't committed to funding that application." Many of the women present said they had given money to Komen and participated in walks, runs and marches for years, but that the past several weeks had left them uncertain that they'd continue to do so.
"I'm conflicted about it," said Cynthia Beard. "This has really raised a lot of issues."
Pat Hale, a MoveOn volunteer from Fort Worth, was part of a group of five women who showed up at Komen's offices this morning, wanting to deliver the petition -- signed by 850,000 people -- in person. "They told us we couldn't come in," she said. "Then the cop cars started showing up."
"It was five little old ladies," she said chuckling. "And five police cars. I said, 'Oh my goodness, they got one for each of us." They were asked to leave the building, she said. "It's been a long time since I've been kicked out of anywhere."
Eventually, it was determined that Athena Chavez, the regional coordinator of the Fort Worth MoveOn council, would be allowed to put the petitions on the back of a security guard's golf cart. She carried them over the cart in silence, surrounded by a ring of press guys snapping photo and video. She gravely deposited the petitions onto the golf cart, then went upstairs with Tina Penney, another MoveOn member, to meet with PR reps from Komen.
"Check to see what's inside 'em," a guy in a sweater-vest muttered to a security guard, pointing at the boxes. Bryant Hilton, a "private communications consultant" not employed by Komen, scurried out to make nice with the remaining protesters. "The personally who normally does this is in D.C. right now," he told us.
"Isn't there a woman who could speak for Komen?" Kris Martin asked Hilton. She held a whiteboard with the words "No Politics W/ My Body - Komen, Austin or D.C." Hilton laughed uncomfortably and didn't reply.
The group moved back across the street to wait for the other MoveOn members to emerge. A cadre of building security officers stood on the steps and watched them go.
"I think there are more media people than protesters," John Ramsey, the building's general manager, told us. He denied the protesters had been asked to leave the lobby. "I would've heard about that." We asked if he'd heard about the Occupy Dallas protest of Komen planned for Thursday. He had. He asked, a little worriedly, if we thought many people would show up for that one. We told him we didn't know.
Thirty minutes passed, and finally Chavez and Morris emerged.
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"We had a very nice meeting," Chavez told the group. "They talked about the process for funding and the challenges and issues they deal with."
"Did they commit to future funding for Planned Parenthood?" someone asked.
"They're not ready to make any hard and fast statements," Chavez replied. "They have a process they go through to decide where funds go."
"So does my pocketbook," a protester replied with grim satisfaction.