Four activists demanding congressional action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act were arrested Thursday evening at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in D.C.
The arrests came about four hours after eight activists arrived at Pelosi’s office for a prescheduled meeting with staff to discuss ENDA. The meeting later became a sit-in protest after congressional staffers in Pelosi’s office wouldn’t agree to the activists’ demand of bringing ENDA to a House floor vote before month’s end.
An officer with U.S. Capitol Police told DC Agenda the activists were arrested for unlawful entry. Not all the activists were arrested because some didn’t stay for the duration of the protest.
Before entering Pelosi’s office, one of the activists said she hoped to discuss the speaker’s “commitments around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”
“We believe — and I believe — that as a citizen of this country that everyone is entitled to work environments that are safe and are protected from discrimination,” said Janine Carmona, a D.C. lesbian associated with GetEqual.org.
“Nancy Pelosi’s made a lot of promises around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and we haven’t seen movement on it,” she said. “The bill has stopped and we’re essentially going to ask for a vote at the end of the month on a trans-inclusive and trans-positive bill.”
Concurrent with the protest in Pelosi’s D.C. office, another protest with seven or eight participants took place in the speaker’s district office in San Francisco. Arrests also occurred at that protest.
The events in both D.C. and San Francisco were coordinated by GetEqual.org, a new grassroots organization that advocates for “bold action” in advancing LGBT rights.
Before the D.C. arrests, activists read aloud the list of ENDA’s legislative sponsors and chanted, “Equal rights now! ENDA starts here!” As U.S. Capitol Police officers led the protestors away in handcuffs, shouts of “get equal” and “it’s all about ENDA” were heard.
In response to the protest, Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill issued a brief statement.
“The speaker believes passing ENDA is a top priority and hopes that we can bring ENDA up as soon as possible,” he said. “That being said, the right time to bring the measure to the floor will be when we have the votes.”
One of the D.C. protesters, Shannon Cuttle, a lesbian from Royal Oak, Mich., wasn’t arrested because she left Pelosi’s office momentarily during the sit-in protest and wasn’t allowed back in after officers blocked the door.
After the arrests, Cuttle said she and the other activists never intended to draw police attention and that they simply wanted “peaceful dialogue and to be able to hold Speaker Pelosi accountable.”
Moments after the arrested protesters were taken away, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) was seen walking along a nearby street. He chairs the House Education & Labor Committee, which is handling ENDA. Asked by DC Agenda when ENDA would advance to a markup, Miller replied, “Right after health care.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that five protesters were arrested. DC Agenda regrets the error.