In a second round of civil disobedience at the White House organized by the grassroots group GetEQUAL, six LGBT service members were arrested after handcuffing themselves to the perimeter fence Tuesday afternoon to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The protesters included Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, who handcuffed themselves, in uniform, to the same fence last month. Pietrangelo was discharged from the military under the gay ban, while Choi's discharge is pending.
Shortly after 12 noon Eastern time, the six protesters unceremoniously approached the fence in uniform. Police officers did not realize the group had handcuffed themselves to the fence for several minutes. The stealth protest is in contrast to last month, when Choi led part of a separate Human Rights Campaign rally to the White House. He and Pietrangelo were then arrested for failure to obey a lawful order.
A U.S. Park Police spokesman told The Advocate that the six were arrested after three verbal warnings and were taken into custody. All have been charged with failure to obey a lawful order (the second such charge for Choi and Pietrangelo) and are currently being held at the police's Anacostia station. It is unclear if they will be detained overnight prior to a court hearing, as Choi and Pietrangelo were last month. (Continued on following page)
On Tuesday, Choi called directly on President Obama to submit “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal language to Congress for inclusion in the defense authorization bill, which is presently being considered in the Armed Services Committees of both the House and Senate. “We call on our commander in chief, the president of the United States to take bold action, to show firm resolve and real leadership on his promise to repeal 'don’t ask, don’t tell,'" Choi said. "To make good on that promise, he has an opportunity to transmit to Congress for the defense authorization bill repeal language.”
When a reporter asked, “Do you feel the president has let you down on this issue?” Choi fell silent and remained silent for the rest of the action.
The group also included Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Petty Officer Larry Whitt. (Continued on following page)
GetEQUAL cofounder Robin McGehee later proceeded to use a bullhorn in protest, also demanding that DADT repeal language be included in the defense authorization bill. “President Obama has claimed that he is a fierce advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. We are expecting bold action,” McGehee said.
On Monday night GetEQUAL members interrupted President Obama for several minutes as he gave a speech at a Los Angeles fund-raiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer's reelection campaign.