Six Arrested at White House Protest
BY Kerry Eleveld
May 02 2010 12:15 PM ET
As Lt. Dan Choi and about 100 LGBT activists staged a “don’t ask, don’t tell” protest Sunday afternoon across the street from the White House, six plain-clothed civilians chained themselves to the White House gates.
Choi, who has twice been arrested after handcuffing himself to the White House gates and has now been court ordered not to enter a certain perimeter around the White House, was joined by a handful of other speakers, including former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis.
The protest came on the heels of a letter leaked late Friday afternoon in which Department of Defense secretary Robert Gates urged House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton “in the strongest possible terms” to delay legislative action on repeal until the Pentagon completes its assessment of how to implement repeal.
“Most journalists had turned off their computers and were safely into happy hour when the White House issued a statement,” Sarvis told the protesters Sunday.
Though the White House statement said President Barack Obama’s commitment to repeal was “unequivocal,” Sarvis called the statement “nothing if not equivocal.”
“There is a stark and not very flattering contrast here between President Obama, who follows his military, and President Truman, whose military followed him,” said Sarvis.
Dean thanked the crowd for standing up for what’s right and praised Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan for showing leadership on the issue.
“Carl Levin is a hero because he has the votes to tack on to the Defense authorization bill,” said Dean, “the end of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ That is the right thing to do for America and I want to thank Senator Levin for his courage.”
According to multiple lobbyists working on repeal, Levin is actually about one to three votes away from securing the votes to attach a repeal measure. But some advocates worried that Friday’s letter from secretary Gates may have stymied momentum on the vote drive.
Asked if Levin should push ahead on repeal despite the letter from Gates, Dean said he should as long as he has the votes.
“Senator Levin’s amendment, in fact, does what the secretary asked for in the secretary’s testimony,” Dean said. “There is a schedule for implementation ... I think there’s about a year for implementation, so the implementation is gradual, which is what the secretary asked for.”
(Story continues on the next page.)
Watch Dan Choi on The Advocate: On Air, below.
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