By Kerry Eleveld and Andrew Harmon, Advocate.com
In an act of civil disobedience, Lt. Dan Choi and Jim Pietrangelo have been arrested at the White House gates on Thursday while protesting the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Following a Human Rights Campaign rally for DADT repeal in Washington earlier today, Choi and Pietrangelo led about 100 protesters to the White House, where the two then proceeded to handcuff themselves to the gates.
United States Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser told The Advocate that both men were taken to Park Police’s Anacostia station, where they were charged with failure to obey a lawful order. Choi and Pietrangelo will be held overnight and are scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Friday.
Choi was speaking at the HRC rally at Freedom Plaza when he asked the group’s executive director, Joe Solmonese, if he would also march to the White House. Pietrangelo was discharged from the military under DADT, while Choi’s discharge is pending. Choi is the founder of Knights Out, a West Point alumni organization supporting LGBT soldiers.
“You’ve been told that the White House has a plan,” Choi told rally attendees. “But we learned this week that the president is still not fully committed. … Following this rally, I will be leading [the protest] to the White House to say ‘enough talk.’ … I am still standing, I am still fighting, I am still speaking out, and I am still gay.”
Police officers had blocked the gates of the White House with yellow tape and pushed back the protesters, who were chanting DADT repeal slogans and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Kathy Griffin, who was in Washington at the behest of HRC to meet with members of Congress about DADT repeal, was also at the rally. When asked by Choi if she would march with him to the White House, Griffin responded, “Of course!” Neither Griffin nor Solmonese was seen at the White House protest, however.
The HRC has released the following statement on the rally: “Today more than 1,000 people showed up at a rally — 500 of which signed up to become more involved in the fight to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Joe Solmonese along with [gay Iraq war veteran] Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.”
Gay rights activist Robin McGehee was also arrested after she had apparently helped the two discharged soldiers handcuff themselves to the fence. An officer who arrested McGehee said “I can’t say anything” on why she was taken into custody.