October 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Protesting Obama by air, land and sea

LGBT rights activists on Monday staged a massive protest against President Obama during his appearance at a Florida fundraiser.

Activists affiliated with GetEQUAL protested Obama during his appearance at a Democratic fundraiser at the waterfront estate of NBA star Alonzo Mourning. Those participating in the protest sent their message to the president by land, air and sea.

The goal of the protest was to convince Obama to issue an executive order to stop the discharges of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Opponents of the law have been pressing Obama to issue such an order since the beginning of his administration, but he has yet to take such action.

In a statement, Robin McGehee, co-founder of GetEQUAL, said the protest was intended to “remind” Obama of his failure to live up to his campaign promises to the LGBT community, including repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“If the president is going to travel around the country asking for our dollars and our votes, then we are going to travel with him and insist that he first give us some of the hope and change he promised,” she said. “As of now, we’re still hoping.”

As the president spoke at the event, air horns could be heard across the bay from the protesters in boats. At one point the protesters could be heard yelling.

Some members of the audience looked over, but the noise was reportedly not loud enough to disrupt the event and the president continued his speech uninterrupted. Anthony Woods, a gay former Democratic congressional candidate in California and Army veteran discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, planned to approach Obama to inform him about the purpose of the protests and to remind him of his campaign promises.

While the protest for the most part proceeded as intended, Woods was denied access to the event as was local activist Itzel Diaz, according to GetEQUAL. The organization said the activists were informed that the White House made the decision to bar them from the fundraiser.

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee denied GetEQUAL’s account of this aspect of the protest.

DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said, “Ms. Diaz called on Friday and said she may be interested in attending the event with a guest. However, Ms. Diaz did not confirm attendance, payment was not submitted, and no information was provided for vetting.”

By land, activists held 10-foot signs saying “End the Discharges Now” and “We’ll Give When We GetEQUAL” while the presidential motorcade entered the neighborhood.

A second set of activists was stationed on boats in the nearby bay once the president was inside the fundraiser. The protesters shouted via bullhorns, “End the discharges now” and “We’ll give when we GetEQUAL.”

Meanwhile, another group of activists launched two, large eight-foot weather balloons carrying 10-foot long banners reading “GetEQUAL.org” to carry the message in the sky.

“Regardless of the spin coming out of the White House, President Obama has the power to dramatically impact the course of civil rights history for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” McGehee said. “Unfortunately, all we have yet to see from the president, who the LGBT community overwhelmingly supported, is excuses, delays and passing the buck off to someone else. That isn’t change we can believe in, that’s just more of the same.”

Photo courtesy of Luna Media Group

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

  • Childish grandstanding. This didn’t accomplish anything except alienate our friends. it helps Republicans. It is also very silly to think that some weather balloons and a few signs will change the politics of DADT. What’s next a bake sale?

  • Hooray for GetEQUAL for actually taking folks to task; demanding answers/action; and creating a visibility that is hard to ignore and difficult to shrug-off quietly as can be and HAS BEEN done with inside requests for our rights. GetEQUAL’s kind of “grandstanding” has taken place with other quests for equality over the centuries. We need only to look at the other headlines in the Blade and other news mediums that talk about the recent suicides of our peers to understand that the glacial pace of progress from the inside is woefully inadequate. People are dying by their own hands because the messages communicated to them by policies still in pace tell them “you’re not worthy.” That’s a message we need to stop getting to them yesterday. Waiting any longer is waiting too long.

  • Now protest for ENDA by air, land and sea!!!! So much focus on this damn DADT that ENDA has completely been forgotten and disappeared and all HRC is doing is posing for photo opportunities. I haven’t heard ENDA emerge from the lips of Obama at all! What’s Pelosi and the Dems doing about bringing it to the floor for a vote?? Are they hold it up pending the November elections??? What’s the stupid excuse now?? ENDA by far benefits the most people in our community yet it gets thrown to the wayside for this! Pathetic leadership we have…no wonder we never get anything done!

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