April 19, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
'Don't Ask' protesters interrupt Obama speech

President Obama (photo courtesy Democratic National Committee)

Protesters angered with President Obama’s progress on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” interrupted his speech several times during a fundraising event in Los Angeles on Monday, leading him to reiterate he’s in favor of ending the law.

The activists were affiliated with GetEqual.org — the same group responsible for organizing Lt. Dan Choi’s and Capt. James Pietrangelo’s act of civil disobedience last month in which the two soldiers chained themselves to the White House gate.

According to White House pool reports, demonstrators called out to Obama several times to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during a Democratic National Committee fundraising speech aimed to build support for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

“What about don’t ask, don’t tell?” one protester shouted to the president.

In response to the protesters’ ourbursts, the crowd tried to hush the activists. Obama yelled back, “We are going to do that,” and kept talking, increasing his volume to speak over the demonstrators. The crowd then erupted into chants of “Yes, we can!”

Obama later said, “We are going to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“It’s time for equality for all Americans!” another protester yelled, and Obama replled, “Can I just say again Barbara and I are supportive of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?’”

But protesters kept yelling, bringing Obama’s remarks to a halt. The crowd responded again by shouting, “Yes we can!” over the protesters.

Obama then left the microphone briefly and spoke with Boxer. After he returned he said, ”I just checked with Barbara, so if anybody else is thinking about starting a chant, Barbara didn’t even vote for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the first place, so you know she’s going to be in favor of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” 

According to a statement from GetEqual.org, demonstrators were then escorted out of the reception by security officers, and Obama regained control over his speech to discuss how the economy was showing signs of recovery.

In a statement, Dan Fotou, a Los Angeles, Calif., resident and one of the protesters at the speech, said Obama has been “has been AWOL” on efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We had to reminded him of the promises he made to the LGBT community during his campaign and several times during his presidency – that ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] will be repealed because, as he’s stated, ‘it’s the right thing to do,’” Fotou said.

Kip Williams, co-founder of GetEqual.org, commended the actions taken by protesters during Obama’s speech.

“These empowering and brave activists feel so strongly about our rights they were willing to confront the President of the United States on his lack of leadership on ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] and to hold him accountable for the promises he has made to our community,” Williams said.

Obama addresses the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protestors in this video at time marks 2:10, 5:23 and 6:20.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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