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Lt. Daniel Choi Arrested In DADT Protest At White House

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2010

Iraq war veteran Lt. Daniel Choi, whose discharge from the US Army under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” handcuffed himself to the White House fence this afternoon along with Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who was discharged in 2004. Here is CNN’s coverage of that protest:

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Choi and Pietrangelo had earlier attended a rally at Freedom Plaza organized by the Human Rights Campaign which featured comedienne Kathy Griffin. Griffin invited Choi, who had not been invited to speak, up to the stage to say a few words. Choi took the opportunity to invite participants at the rally to march with him and Pietrangelo to the White House.

Once they reached the White House shortly before 1:00 pm, Choi and Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the fence. They were quickly met by police and Secret Service. After a standoff of about an hour, police cut they two from the fence and placed them under arrest. A third advocate, Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL was also arrested.

Latest word is that Choi and Pietrangelo will be held in DC jail overnight and appear tomorrow in DC Superior Court. Observers say that it is highly unusual for a person to be arrested with “failure to obey a lawful order” and be held overnight. Typically such an individual makes bail and is released the same day. Why the delay?


In the best tradition of protests, that is where this story would end for the day, as unsatisfying an ending as it is right now. But wouldn’t you know it, whenever it comes to the gays, it seems there always has to be some squabbling going on somewhere. This one is playing out as an anti-HRC/pro-HRC tussle. Blogger John Avarosis describes the events at the HRC’s rally this way:

I was there, chronicled Dan from this morning’s preparation to his unexpected speech at the HRC rally (Joe Solmonese told him he couldn’t speak, Dan got Kathy Griffin to invite him on stage), to his march to the White House fence where he and Capt. James Pietrangelo (who was kicked out in 2004 for being gay) handcuffed themselves to the White House gate with hundreds of supporters chanting. It was an amazing scene. Griffin told Choi she’d march with him the White House, then she refused to go when he found her after rally. Solmonese reportedly gave Choi the thumbs up when Choi asked him if he’d march to the White House – Solmonese too was nowhere to be scene, and refused to go when Choi approached him after the HRC rally.

The HRC responded:

There’s been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi’s role in the rally.  As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn’t his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans.  After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.

Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with 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.

As for Kathy Griffin, we have this tweet:

It was my honor 2 share th podium w Lt Dan Choi today. I understand he’s been arrested in front of the White House. I dig that dude! Balls!

Comments

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David Roberts
March 18th, 2010 | LINK

I’m not sure doing that in uniform was a good idea.

Regan DuCasse
March 18th, 2010 | LINK

I think I agree with you Dave. Still, I love Lt. Dan Choi and every other soldier like him.
For some reason, seeing him like that and hearing about what happened, made me want to cry.
After what happened to that woman soldier who’d gotten married losing her job, and knowing how many committed and competent soldiers are being lost to paranoia as much as bombs and bullets, it all just makes me so sad.

And then I get mad.

Regan DuCasse
March 18th, 2010 | LINK

I meant to say lost to bigotry, as much as terrorist’s weapons.

I’m seriously tired right now.
G’night everybody.

ClayH
March 18th, 2010 | LINK

While I normally think that a little bit of civil disobedience like this is great, I have to agree with David and say that I’m ambivalent about this. Doing any kind of political protest in uniform is inappropriate and a violation of the UCMJ. I really hope he hasn’t just shot his career in the foot regardless of whether DADT is repealed or not, or even worse, risked an other-than-honorable discharge. I suppose that might have been the point, though – it’s a powerful statement to deliberately destroy his career like this, much like when he came out on national TV.

mattymatt
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Gosh, has there ever been a clearer demonstration of HRC’s failings? What an opportunity to make headlines Dan offered them, and they passed it up and looked like dinosaurs.

Officer
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

I echo the sentiments of other commenters here – getting arrested in uniform was stupid. Dan has been doing a great job so far, and he’s shown more courage than I with respect to this issue. But as Officers, when we put on the uniform, we’re no longer civilians in any sense. We’re representatives of the United States Military, charged with supporting and defending the constitution. And to be quite frank, even out of uniform, Officers are expected to conduct themselves respectfully and professionally – that is why I am very careful about how I express my political opinions, even among friends. In civilian clothes, we’re just like any other person on the street – put on the uniform, especially with senior nco or officer rank, and it’s instant authority and respect.

That’s why there are pretty extensive guidelines on how Soldiers may participate in the political process of this country. One of the big no-nos is wearing your uniform during political events (DoD Directive 1344.10 and DoD Instruction 1334.01) – it sends a message of official endorsement by the military. Lt. Choi could be Court Martialed for violating pretty clear instructions on political activities. At the very least, our fellow officers will see this video and feel very uneasy and possibly angry – a US Army Officer getting arrested? Publicly? By civilian police? Disgraceful.

I regard DADT as a civil rights issue, as do most people here. But that’s not how many of our opponents think of it. They consider repealing DADT to be a political issue, and Lt Choi being arrested in uniform, in front of the White House, sends a really bad message. This is going to get used against us, possibly to great effect.

And something that I haven’t seen picked up elsewhere. CPT James Pietrangelo was discharged in 2004. If he doesn’t still have his commission, then he is guilty of impersonating an officer. This is a pretty big crime. He may or may not still retain his commission as an officer. Even if he does retain his commission, he is also breaking the law under DoD 1344.10.

Perhaps their intention is to use the possible legal consequences to draw attention to the issue. But I think it’s a bad move.

Ray
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

A H-U-G-E Fail for HRC and their eunuch “leader” Joe Solmonese.

I remember the disrespect accorded to TSgt Leonard Matlovich who dignified his uniform while the Air Force humiliated him.

Dan Choi has no need to dignify the uniform of a military set on humiliating him. He wears it proudly and no matter what he does, he gets degrade by homophobes and, as I see here, gays too. You guys make me sick. You think it’s some kind of shame to claim a place at the table while wearing the uniform of the United States Armed Forces? I bet not one of you have even been in the service. You sound like you just got your talking points from HRC.

Officer
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Ray, in case it wasn’t clear from my previous post, I am in the service, so I don’t speak from ignorance. Even if DADT were not in place and gays could serve openly, that would not change the fact that protesting – of ANY sort – in uniform is a violation of DoD directives.

And, I agree with you, Solmonese is worthless and HRC is just looking for photo ops.

AndrewW
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

GetEqual, huh? This is just another “new” non-profit engaging in “old” nonsense.

These stunts are intended to generate donations, not progress for the LGBT Community. They got attention, but, they won’t get donations.

Many, like David Mixner, are simply attempting to make themselves viable by endorsing this ineffective behavior.
Yesterday’s childish publicity stunts did NOTHING to change any minds or garner any support for our community. They likely did just the opposite.

Mixner and some in his generation continue to mislead young people by filling them with old, tired ideas from a bygone era. Mixner asked GetEqual and Dan Choi to MAKE BELIEVE it was 1970 yesterday. He convinced them to ignore the simple reality that the world has changed and convinced them that irritating and even harassing people was a good idea.

We have enough attention for our struggle – confirmed by the fact that a 10 year old boy from Arkansas (yeah, ARKANSAS) refused to pledge allegiance until the LGBT community had equality. WE DON’T NEED ATTENTION, WE NEED RESULTS.

If Mixner or others want to continue promoting this behavior and dishonestly suggest that it is effective, WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE? Tell us HOW these childish stunts furthered our objectives. Because here’s a news bulletin: NOBODY cares if you are ANGRY or the half a dozen self-described activists are angry.

The LGBT Community needs accountability – from HRC to ill-conceived publicity stunts to political efforts – and that includes stuck-in-the-60s “old-school” David Mixner. If you want to promote these activities, provide some EVIDENCE that they are effective, otherwise shut up and let these tired old ideas fade into the past where they belong – with your 8-track tapes, VW Buses and tied-dyed t-shirts.

Paul in Canada
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Repost:
Hmmm….. dramatic public demonstrations of activism are helpful to bring issues to the attention of the public and/or government – actions that should solicit the concern, if not empathy of those targeted.

But this issue is already well in the public and governments focus and now ‘forces’ a response/action (which includes not acting or reacting).

Does this type of action, at this time, in the current context with the myriad issues facing the President, now provoke the type of response/action that is desired? I suspect not.

Activism vs. advocacy… the debate will continue, I’m sure.

Dr. Matthew
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

First, I have to disagree with the disparaging comments about Lt. Choi appearing in uniform – the rules to not engage in political action while in uniform are a response to how powerful the imagery is, and there’s a long history, from just about every past war to now, of soldiers making the courageous choice to stand up there appearing, as they should be, equal to the pro-administration speakers you see on the nightly news.

This also turned what the HRC had apparently hoped would be a simple fundraising event into national news. There’s value to keeping these issues on the front page, and the HRC stance of behaving like closeted elderly lawyers has not only failed previously to pass ENDA or enact real change for most gays and lesbians, their monocular rating system that ignores all issues but certain narrow LGBT concerns has led to a voting guide that has torn down more bridges than it has built with other minorities.

Finally, I was disgusted when I first read the HRC release – not the bits where they throw Lt. Choi under the bus (though that wasn’t endearing), but the parts where they mention the attendance of over 1000 participants, then go on to note that “More than 500 people signed up to become more involved in the fight to repeal DADT.” We’ve all, in the LGBT community, donated or signed on at some point with the HRC – it’s hard to read that sort of statement anymore as anything other than patting themselves on the back for some new donors. Tell me how many marched on to the white house, and then let’s re-evaluate how many were truly committed to being more involved.

I’m not anti-HRC – but behind-closed-doors lobbying is only one slow, ponderous way to get things done, and for minorities it has typically been a completely ineffective when not paired with disaffected citizens and headlines. The Civil Rights Act didn’t pass in isolation and secret at the behest of lobbyist who didn’t have “black” in the name of their non-profits and only met with politicians off the record – it came about because white legislators in Washington were dealing with the growing pressures of the Civil Rights struggle and knew they had to do something. If we, as a community, want change, we need both. The left hand doesn’t need to know what the right is doing, but the fight is ineffective without both hands in constant action.

Jason D
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

“Ray, in case it wasn’t clear from my previous post, I am in the service, so I don’t speak from ignorance. Even if DADT were not in place and gays could serve openly, that would not change the fact that protesting – of ANY sort – in uniform is a violation of DoD directives.”

As opposed to being gay in the first place, which is totally okay with the DoD.

You seem to have gotten the message, but missed the point. People are drowning and you’re getting caught up in what temperature the water is.

Quite frankly, if Lt. Choi had been in civvies during his arrest, we’d see just as many comments about how he should’ve been wearing his uniform.

He went for broke, and I applaud that. If you’re going to get arrested for civil disobedience, might as well go balls out and do it in uniform.

We need more of this. More (civil) arrests. More strong nonviolent action. More SACRIFICE.

We talk a big game about how important our rights are, but who among us is actually willing to sacrifice to make that happen? And I’m not talking about writing a check, or not going to work for an entire day(gasp!) or using your savings to fly out to DC just to walk around righteously for no reason. I’m talking pain here. Rosa Parks put herself in jeopardy. MLK all but painted a bullseye on his chest, Ghandi, too.

Lt. Choi KNEW what he was doing. He knew most certainly when he put on that uniform yesterday what was in store for him. He accepted both the risks and the consequences, and I’ve seen NOTHING that suggests otherwise. He’s not a fool, he’s a revolutionary. I hope he is but the first.

Frijondi
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

@AndrewW. I tend to agree with you about sixties-style protests; however, I would not put Choi in the same category as GetEqual. He has a hell of a lot more to lose, and he appears to understand and accept that. People can disagree about how well-advised or effective his actions are, but he does not come off as even remotely like one of those hobbyist protesters who want to revive the sixties.

Ben in Oakland
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

I have often said that the reason DADT works is because people don’t come out, they are found out.

If 500 G/L soldiers came out at one time in an ad in the New York times, preferably with pictures and time in the military, I don’t think DADT would last much longer. Though my business is dead, I would gladly contribute $300 to that advertisement.

I cannot speak on the legal military merits or demerits of what Dan Choi did, but I absolutely applaud him for his balls. He is doing what most of the anti-antigay campaigns should be doing: COMING OUT BIG TIME. 100% bang-on, Jason. The major reason we lost Prop. 8 was because EQCA ran a campaign that was deeply closeted in its mentality.

Another thing I also think, related to this. So much of our dollar campaigns go the funding organizations and fighting anti-gay asshats. We should be spending a good portion of our money encouraging people to COME OUT, especially those who are related to people in leadership positions, to talk to their friends and families, and to discuss the issues. It is a second reason we lost Prop. 8– the failure of the campaign to encourage gay people via PUBLIC advertising campaigns to come out to their fmailies and talk about it.

The enemy is only peripherally the ass hats, right wingers, and religious bigots. The enemy is the CLOSET, and will always be the closet– just like there will always be anti-gay bigots as long as there is money to be made, power to be obtained, or demons to exorcise (or exercise, as the case may be). They are ultimately not important, because I think most people are actually pretty decent, on the whole, just ignorant and fearful.

As much as I hate to say anything nice about him, dick cheney is a good example of what we can achieve if people just come out.

Frijondi
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Ben, I hope you are right about the majority of people. And I absolutely agree with you about coming out, and the EQCA campaign. At the risk of sounding like a concern troll, though, I must admit I wonder sometimes how many Dick Cheneys are out there, as opposed to how many Lorie “I’d be seen in a photo with my gay cousins but still think they’re damaged, sinful losers who don’t deserve basic civil rights” Zapfs.

Discrimination exists not only because of ignorance, but also because it can be kind of fun. I think there will always be a need for laws to make it less fun.

Officer
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

“Lt. Choi KNEW what he was doing. He knew most certainly when he put on that uniform yesterday what was in store for him. He accepted both the risks and the consequences, and I’ve seen NOTHING that suggests otherwise. He’s not a fool, he’s a revolutionary. I hope he is but the first.”

I believe you are correct, he is not a fool and I never stated that he was. And to reiterate, I believe he has been a courageous voice for change. I also can understand why you and other commenters believe his actions were correct and necessary.

I do, however, stand by my position that he should not have done it in uniform. What you see as him standing up to the system and trying to create outrage, and doing so in uniform, will be seen by the officer corps as conduct unbecoming. It will create unease among the corps and gives a powerful image to those opposed to repealing the ban.

You may say that’s a good thing, and I will tell you that it’s not the sort of unease this movement wants. Many junior officers want the ban repealed, the vast majority either want the ban repealed or don’t care one way or the other. Those who are resolutely against repealing the ban are in the minority. One of the arguments used by them is that if we allow gay people to serve openly, then military bases will see pride parades and lbgt activism on the bases. This sort stunt plays right into those fears and gives them ammunition to support their claims.

Timothy Kincaid
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

I believe that Choi was brave, but I’m not yet certain whether or not he was wise.

Choi had a lot of national sympathy. I wonder whether it was increased or squandered by this action. I just can’t tell.

Jason D
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Officer, my parents are both marines, I was raised in the military from Richards-Gebauer and Cherry Point to Camp Foster.

I’m aware of the UCMJ, though I don’t remember most of it.

The general public, however, knows even less than I do.

Dan’s actions reach beyond simply DADT and the military into the very heart of our larger Civil Rights struggle.

I wonder, if when more people are drowning you and Tim will still be obsessing over the temperature of the water. You can’t see the forest for the trees, and that’s a shame.

Priya Lynn
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Dan Choi isn’t a child anymore, the time when someone had a right to tell him how he could or couldn’t dress is long past.

Burr
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

If 500 G/L soldiers came out at one time in an ad in the New York times, preferably with pictures and time in the military, I don’t think DADT would last much longer.

Or better yet, 500 of them in uniform (or not, I can see both sides of this), at the White House fence.

Having only a couple troops there kinda makes it look insignificant.

Ben in Oakland
March 19th, 2010 | LINK

Better andcheaper. Just make sure the times covers it. Free ad!!!!

Officer
March 20th, 2010 | LINK

Jason,

“I wonder, if when more people are drowning you and Tim will still be obsessing over the temperature of the water. You can’t see the forest for the trees, and that’s a shame.”

My problem is not the temperature of the water. It’s about conducting one’s self in accordance with the role of a commissioned officer. We should – and must – be held to a high standard of conduct. That is my issue with Lt Choi’s action. His activism up until chaining himself to the WH fence and getting arrested in uniform, I supported. After that, I think he went too far.

I obviously draw the line at a different spot than you. We disagree, but please don’t suggest that I’m blind or unable to consider the merits of your argument – that’s just condescending.

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