November 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
13 arrested at White House in ‘Don’t Ask’ protest

(Blade photos by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: video from this protest is available on the Blade’s main homepage; scroll down to find it on the left side.

Thirteen activists were arrested Monday afternoon for chaining themselves to the White House gates in protest over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what they perceive as President Obama’s lack of action in stopping the discharges of gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the U.S. armed forces.

The protesters were affiliated with GetEQUAL, a group that’s organized acts of civil disobedience throughout the country over LGBT issues. Among the protesters were Lt. Dan Choi, a gay Iraq war veteran who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL.

In a statement, GetEQUAL touted how three generations of LGBT activists were arrested as a result of the action. Others who were arrested include former U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Elzie, who’s gay and the first Marine discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993, as well as Michael Bedwell, a long-time advocate of LGBT rights and open service in the U.S. military.

The protesters superglued their handcuff locks, and, despite repeated warnings from U.S. Park Police, didn’t remove themselves from the White House fence. As police forcibly removed the activists, they dragged their feet as they were hauled into a paddy wagon. It took five police officers to remove Choi from the fence, hand-cuff him and drag him to the van.

After their arrest, the protesters were taken to Anacostia Park Station. The charges and penalties they’re facing as a result of their arrest weren’t immediately known.

As the protesters were chained to the White House fence, Choi called on President Obama to act on his promise to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“After all his rhetoric, I think we must conclude that there is truth to the knowledge in homophobia of both sorts: there is a loud homophobia of those with platforms and there is a silent homophobia for those who purport to be our friends and do nothing,” Choi said. “Loud homophobia and silent homophobia have the same result. They must be combatted and this is what we intend to do today.”

While the protesters were chained to the White House fence, they chanted the often-used GetEQUAL refrain of “I am … somebody … and I deserve … full equality.” The protesters also added a new refrain, “Barack Obama … Silent Homophobia!”

Army Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, who previously was arrested for chaining himself to the White House, led the chants of the protesters with a bullhorn from Lafayette Park.

“Why are these courageous heroes having to be arrested now?” he shouted. “Mr. President, could you follow the lead of these brave Americans and stop ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'”?

Pietrangelo called on Obama to issue an executive order to stop the discharges under the military’s gay ban.

In statement, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, responded to the protest and said Obama is committed to legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“As we have said repeatedly, the president remains committed to a legislative repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Inouye said. “The White House continues to work with Congress towards achieving that comprehensive and lasting solution.”

Autumn Sandeen, a transgender activist and Navy veteran who was among the 13 people arrested, told the Blade prior to the protest that she participated to bring more attention to the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and to show transgender solidarity with gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

“Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will not affect transgender people one bit,” she said. “Gay, lesbian and bisexual people will be able to serve openly, but transgender people will not. But I’m part of a broader community: the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

Sandeen said putting pressure on the White House could push President Obama to move forward with advancing an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She recalled similar protests in the spring prompted the administration to endorse a repeal compromise passed by the U.S. House.

“What we hope to do is put pressure on the White House and the president, President Obama, to fulfill the promise to actually put pressure on the Senate to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” she said.

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

  • Peter the saint

    I am no longer a Democrat. I will no longer vote for ANY Democrat (or Republican) ever again, even local. Ever. I will write-in a candidate if need be, but the two-party system has shown itself to be ONE monopolistic system, with widespread corruption (CIA videotapes, anyone?). The Democratic Party has shown quite clearly that as a Party it is ineffective to provide even the most basic protections needed now/yesterday by minority-status, LGBT people in America. After wielding complete control of the House, Senate and Presidency for two years, our Government clearly lacks any real commitment to legal protections for our housing, jobs, retirement, etc.

    Obviously, neither the Dems nor the Pubs are the right party for LGBT Americans to find equality. Goodbye Dems. Please don’t call and ask me for money, time or just an ear. You’re bothering me.

    • LOrion

      I do hope Peter the saint has reconsidered his comment of NOV 15. As that was just the beginning of the saga and September 20, 2011… was the end we had all worked so long and hard for. Yep, OBAMA did it. No Republican/GOP/TeaParty/KochKult worshipper ever would.

  • Bill

    Peter is correct in that Obama is an opportunistic pig. He squandered a supermajority and produced nothing. I will NEVER vote for him again, and I’m shopping for a new, electable presidential candidate for 2012 (Michael Bloomberg?). Also, this ATM is closed to the dems. Why pay for your own oppression.

    • Chris

      Oh Bill STFU…Your ATM was NEVER opened for Obama…child bye. Stop playing you know damn well your hating black people as.s did NOT vote for Obama. It’s too bad you guys can accept white politicians being (homophobic) But because he hasn’t jumped in 2 YEARS for you. You all are having HEART ATTACKS. And I bet you all can’t WAIT to draft Hillary “I BELIEVE MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN” Rodham Clinton as the next Dem nominee.

      And also remember when the vote was held……..Only 2 Southern WHITE SENATORS voted against it. (Blanche Lincoln & William Pryor) both of Arkansas. Every other Democrat voted for it and NO REPUBLICANS voted for it! So what more can he do???? If it doesn’t pass in the lame duck. He will issue an Executive Order to stop the discharges.. It will get done.


  • Tim

    To be honest, the Dems never should have put the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in front of other LGBT bills like ENDA and the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act and now they can’t even get that passed in the Senate. I certainly understand and appreciate the frustration with the relative lack of progress over the last two years of Democratic control, but I am not willing to write off all of the Democrats just yet. In fact, some of the Progressive Dems have been very outspoken advocates for the community, but the Blue Dogs and other do-nothing moderates have left us hanging way too many times. The Republicans are worthless and I will never vote for one of them again. As for Obama, I don’t see myself voting for him again either. At this point it looks like I will be voting Democrat for Congress and Michael Bloomberg, (Independent) for President. In the end, we have to vote for the best interests of our community, and to my mind that means voting for openly gay politicians first, Pro-LGBT Dems second, and half-way supportive Dems or independents last. The current lame-duck Congress needs to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, the Repeal of DADT and hopefully the Student Non-Discrimination Act or other related anti-bullying legislation before the damn Republicans take over and ruin everything.

  • Pete Giaquinto

    HILLARY 2012!!!

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