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BREAKING: Six Vets Chain Themselves to White House Fence

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2010

In a repeat of last month’s protest against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:, six veterans have chained themselves to the White House fence.

In a protest that is currently ongoing according to The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld’s Twitter feed, Lt. Daniel Choi and five others have handcuffed themselves to the White House fence. The protesters consist of three men and three women, including Lt. Choi, who reportedly is calling on the President to include the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military in the Defense Authorization Bill.

Joe Sudbury identifies another protester as Autumn Sandeen, a transgender blogger with Pam’s House Blend who is a retired twenty-year navy veteran. Another protester has been identified as  Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who was discharged under DADT in 2004. Pietrangelo also handcuffed himself to the White House fence last month alongside Choi.

The protest was organized by GetEQUAL, which also organized a protest at a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer last night. The protest target was President Barack Obama, whose address was interrupted by hecklers demanding action on DADT’s repeal.

Update: GetEqual identifies the six as Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Airman Victor Price.

Update 2: All six protesters have now been place under arrest.

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Uki
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

The title for this news is…..ehm, misleading.

‘vets’…..i thought it’s about animal doctors :P

JP in OC
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Not again, Dan Choi. The first time was controversial enough. Dan, you are starting to lose the respect of all of us who have followed you. Dan, you know that as a military officer you need to conduct yourself with dignity and respect, not like a 60′s radical protestor. Please Dan, we need you.

Jason D
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

JP. I couldn’t disagree more. As the child of two Marines, I was never taught that cowardice is the answer. What he’s doing, again, is very brave. I fail to see the lack of dignity and respect in simple civil disobedience. Radicals get things done. Or do you think $200 plate dinners do a better job?

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

In a particularly disturbing twist, the White House has pushed the media back, closed Lafayette Park appearing to try and stifle coverage of this protest. I am sure that they will come up with some sort of “security” explanation, but they didn’t seem so worried about “security” when crowds of right wing armed protesters showed up at Obama events.

I disagres strongly with JP in OC. I would say that the president and the White House need to conduct themselves with dignity, because we need them. If they prove not to be useful, there is no reason to support Obama in the future. I doubt he will be able to make up for the votes that he loses among his base with extreme right wing Tea Party activists.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

I’ve got to agree with JP: when Dan tried this the first time, all my friends were ticked off at the stunt. I heard the phrase “But he’s better than that” so many times. Suddenly this potential new eloquent spokesman for GLBT was made by the media to look like some environmental hippie radical chaining himself to a tree. I too hope he “straightens” himself out.

Richard Rush
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Um, the first Update says, “GetEqual identifies the six…,” but there are only five names listed. I assume Dan Choi was in fact the sixth(?).

Jason D
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Paul, Were your friends ticked off at MLK Jr. and Ghandi? Because they too did “stunts” like this, and had people telling them they were “better than this”.

Doesn’t mean that Choi and the other 5 are necessarily the next MLKs or Ghandi, but they’re a lot closer than you or I.

The tactics we’ve been using up until now have run their course. They are no longer effective.

I’m sure Dan would love to hear your idea that would be better and more effective than this, please send it to him. He’s on facebook and actually responds to email. He invited me to this, but family health issues have prevented me from being able to go.

Perhaps he’s wrong. But what’s worse, doing the wrong thing, or doing nothing at all? Most of us are doing nothing, myself included, and I have to say, unless we’re willing to ACT in some helpful way, we really have no room to criticize.

It’s always easier to tear down someone than to create something better.

TJMcFisty
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

At least some are taking action. Action some might not like at the gut level, but it’s action nonetheless.

Jason D
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

well it appears some of the media is pissed about the way the White House treated journalist’s covering this story
http://gay.americablog.com/2010/04/6-military-vets-handcuff-selves-to.html

“The police literally ordered the press to leave, and pushed all us back halfway to the end of the park, telling us the park was closed.”

“Last time, there were 200 raucous demonstrators watching and the police weren’t worried at all. It seems GetEqual got the White House’s attention.”

Burr
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

I really wish they could get more than 6 people there. They should invite ALL veterans against this policy to show up.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Jason D. you are unfortunately completely missing the point.

Whose minds do we need to change? The politicians? Obama? The Republicans? The Democrats? The Military heads?

No — we need to change the minds of Middle America.

And Dan was doing such a good job of that. News show after news show, article after article, he eloquently told his story. Rally after rally, speaking panel after speaking panel, he motived the minds and changed the hearts of everyone he spoke to. Middle America was taking notice. Even my own gray-haired Middle American mother asked me “Have you heard of this Choi fellow?”

But now Dan has pulled this stunt (twice). Do you think this impresses Middle America? No, they shake their heads and say to themselves, “Crazy gays.” They turn off and tune out.

Before he looked like a model soldier, full of discipline and honor — just the image needed to prove it’s time to end DADT. Before this stunt he was a media darling, getting on shows and getting the message out. He was respected.

But now he’s looking rash, foolish, and fanatical, and it’s undermined his message.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Oh swell, here we go again. I agree with JP that Choi was wrong to do this once more, especially since he is still in the service. I’m more sympathetic with the other 5 since they are out, but am still disturbed by their wearing the uniform while engaging in this protest. Choi is booking for a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge if he keeps this up.

Oh and Jason D: Neither Ghandi nor MLK were in the military when they engaged in civil disobedience. Big difference here. If Choi leaves the service and then wants to engage in this kind of protest, I’ll still object to the use of the uniform but would view this much more favorably.

Quo
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Why does it seem that the willingness of certain homosexuals to break the law and disobey rules does not strengthen the case for letting them serve in the military?

Goober Peas
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

I salute the bravery, dignity, and honor of these 6 Americans who continue to serve their country and their community with courage.

The assimilationists are, of course, screaming “What will middle America think?” as if appearing “normal” and being “polite” have even brought about any kind of change whatsoever. Ghosts of the Matachine Society still haunt our community, it seems.

Some quotations from one of my heroes, Frederick Douglass:

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”

I could not be more proud of Autumn, Dan, and the LGB patriots who risked so much today to let the White House and America know that no longer will we sit patiently by and accept second class status. I stand with you and beside you, as do many, many other Americans.

Jason D
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Paul you and John are completely missing the point.

And still sitting around complaining.

You’ll have room to talk when you either A) meet my challenge and come up with an alternate idea that doesn’t involve just sitting around begging for rights (we’ve been there, done that, only got us so far)

or B) you Get off your duffs and do something yourself.

The point you’re missing is action. Quite frankly F&CK Middle America, I don’t need to kiss their @sses to get my rights. They don’t own this country.

Changing hearts and minds has been done enough. Now is the time to stop asking and start demanding. But I suppose you’d both rather send checks? Do more talk shows? Wait and wait and wait?

Dan has done the one thing NONE of our other advocates are doing: sticking his neck out. He has EVERYTHING to loose and that’s the point.

You don’t get your rights by asking nicely and bowing to the powers that be. That’s certainly not what King did, and that’s certainly not what our forefathers did. Choi is right in line with our rich tradition of saying “enough is enough”.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Giving the finger to Middle America, the backbone of the military, will do nothing more than generate a strong backlash. While it may be emotionally satisfying, it is stupid, asinine and will actually work against what you claim to want to accomplish. Don’t lecture me about squat when you are supporting stunts that come dangerously close to betraying one of the bedrock principles ALL servicemembers swear to uphold: subordination of the military to civilian authorities.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

The only option right now for passage of repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is to get it in the Defense Authorization Bill. That way the Republicans would have to come up with 60 votes to kill it. Otherwise, we would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster as a stand alone bill. The president has made no attempt to have the repeal in the Defense Authorization Bill (and many reports indicate the White House is actively discouraging Democrats from putting it in the Defense Authorization Bill).

Democrats are going to lose seats in 2010. If Don’t Ask Don’t Tell isn’t put through the Senate during this session, we may be waiting another 17 years.

Now is the time for action. If the president doesn’t act now, this isn’t going to happen. He only seems to respond when his arm is twisted. If we are unwilling to twist his arm and show him just how angry we are with the games that he is playing with our rights, we will get nowhere.

He on the other hand needs to be careful about alienating his base. More and more GLBT voters are losing patience with him. Even more importantly Latinos are starting to get angry. If he continues to thow his base under the bus, it is unlikely that he will win a second term. If he continues to govern this way, I don’t think he deserves a second term, and I would guess that many of his 2008 supporters (like myself) agree with me.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Paul,

We don’t need to change the minds of Middle America. Middle America has shown in poll after poll after poll that it is more than ready to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Jason,

I’m finding it difficult to believe that you, as you as “the child of two Marines”, would advocate embarrassing the military, and applauded one of our uniformed officers chaining himself to our nation’s White House.

I’m also finding it hypocritical that you, as you have said, “are doing nothing” about this cause … and then you proceed to lecture the rest of us in this discussion about “complaining.”

And I’m finding it sad that you think I need to “get off (my) duff and do something”.

While you’re doing nothing, as you’ve written previously, I have marched in protests for gay rights, worked phone banks for gay causes, sang in gay choruses in hostile environments, worked midnight shifts on AIDS hotlines, and worked and chaired fundraisers. I have seen all these things make differences, big & small, in the lives of others.

And I saw Dan Choi making a huge difference with his gifts and talents for speaking, motivating and leading. But now I see him undermining his own message, his own substance, with these antics.

You may say I’m complaining, but as you’ve seen from this long thread of postings, others are also frustrated by this repeated stunt. You can invoke the names of Gandhi and MLK Jr., and you can rail against expensive HRC dinners, and you can attack anyone who dares question Dan Choi.

Or you can look with a critical eye at his actions and ask yourself, Is this what a man of substance and a leader of our community really should be doing?

Consider which will better help the cause:
1. Officer drummed out of the Military under DADT for openly, honestly and powerfully proclaiming who he is, or
2. Officer drummed out of the Military for committing the felony of chaining himself to the White House.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

I can’t imagine that chaining oneself to the gate in front of the White House as an act of civil disobedience could or would ever qualify as a felony. This is clearly misdemeanor behavior.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Hi John,

My apologies if I don’t trust poll numbers, especially recent poll numbers that are now indicating that Middle America might be ready for gays in the military.

Having lived through Prop 8 here in California, I’ve seen polls flip-flop so easily. Polls said Californians were okay with gay marriage, and polls said Californians would not repeal gay marriage.

The polls were wrong.

I strongly believe, and recent votes in California and Maine have shown, that we still have a ways to go to change the hearts and minds of Middle America about gay rights, gay marriage, and gays in the military.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Admittedly, I’m not a lawyer, but I think it would be more than just a misdemeanor chaining oneself to the White House. And it would definitely be “Conduct Unbecoming An Officer” for which Dan could be discharged.

If the Military is looking for an excuse -other than- DADT to get rid of Dan, isn’t this just such a perfect excuse? Especially since he didn’t do it just once, but twice? And in uniform?

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

I too am a Californian. The Prop 8 polls were always pretty close, and people lie. The polls on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell aren’t close at all.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

John, you have more faith in the polls (and perhaps the average American) than I. I hope you are right.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

By the way, the definition of a felony is a crime whose punishment involves greater than one year in prison.

A year or more in prison for this sort of thing would be beyond excessive.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Here’s what I got from Newsweek concerning Dan’s original arrest:

“All three were arrested, and Choi and Pietrangelo spent one night in jail. Both men appeared in court the next day, in shackles and handcuffs, and pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to obey a lawful order. A trial date is set for April 26.”

Shackles and handcuffs, court dates, etc. Sounds like more than just a misdemeanor.

John
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

Standard fare for civil disobedience.

Putting someone in prison for more than a year for something like this (not sure what you would charge them with) would be such a gross example of prosecutorial misconduct and excess that it would result in it’s own investigation of why such a crazy thing was done. Nobody would want to answer those questions.

Usually, you get arrested, post bail, go to court, pay your fine and move on. In this case, bail wasn’t posted, because the arresting authorities denied Choi his phone call and wouldn’t arraign him til the next day. The reason for the trial is Choi’s choice. It is a further act of civil disobedience. Rather than agree to pay the fine (plead guilty), he is forcing the government to go to the trouble of choosing a jury and putting on a case. (They might be able to do it before a judge, but it would still be a hassle). This insisting on a trial is also a relatively common civil disobedience tactic. I wouldn’t be surprised if charges are just dropped.

Paul
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

John, thanks for the info. And you’re probably right, except the last part about the charges probably being dropped. Now that he’s done it a -second- time, I’d be surprised if the charges are dropped. He’s shown himself to be a repeat offender. We’ll have to see how this works out.

Candace
April 20th, 2010 | LINK

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in relaity expressing the highest respect for the law.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Good job, Lt Choi and the rest of you– keep it in their faces and on their minds and on the consciences of America until justice is done. It won’t happen by all of us behaving like good little gays going meekly back into the closet so we don’t offend anyone.

Our very EXISTENCE is an offense.

There is nothing we can do or not do that will placate our detractors. Apparently Choi realizes that more than those among us who thnk if we are vewwy, vewwy quiet, we will be allowed the crumbs that fall from the table of society.

I[‘m 57 years old. I want to be able to hold my wife’s hand in public before I die. And I’m tired of being quiet, hoping I will be accepted. I’ll never be accepted, and I don’t give a damn anymore. I don’t care who likes it and who doesn’t.

Bravo Dan Choi! Keep up the good fight! Many of us would join you if we could.

Mortanius
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

I’m assuming that Quo would have had us not retaliate at Stonewall and be a bunch of good little faggots and stand there as police beat the shit out of us, use firehoses on us, arrest us for having a cocktail, because we need to follow the laws, and those nasty faggots should never have fought back against the police. Bad faggots make no protest just go about your lives and live in the closet.
So I disagree, if we just go back in the closet and behave like the straights want us to, then we’ll be undoing all the work that has been done. not that everybody will do it, but there are those who are brave enough to take a stand, maybe Choi is willing to get a bad conduct on himself if it furthers the greater good of EQUALITY for ALL GLBT people.

customartist
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

Lafayette Park is looking like Tiananmen Square (without the tanks)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaBk1dUF9nM&feature=player_embedded

Why was Lafayette Park Closed to the Media and the Public?
What were the legitimate reasons for hiding this Peaceful Event from the public?
Was there a Bomb Threat or other “National Security” concerns?
(because 5 Service Members and the Media surely weren’t a threat)
Will the Media simply allow this type of Oppression via Censorship without legitimate justification in the US Government, and just go along with this?

A Non-Answer from a Whitehouse Spokesman just isn’t gonna cut it on this one.

Here’s a few contacts:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form11b.html?2

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10285339/

http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us

Ben in Oakland
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

“Why does it seem that the willingness of certain homosexuals to break the law and disobey rules does not strengthen the case for letting them serve in the military?”

Becuase, quo, there are people who think exactly as you do– they hate gay people, especially if the gay people are themselves.

you woulda thought that Lt. calley would have convinced people that having heteros in the military was a bad idea.

Regan DuCasse
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

The President came here to Los Angeles, and during his appearance at the DNC, there were people shouting at him regarding DADT.
He responded pretty much like “we’ll get right on it that repeal, Sen. Boxer has always been supportive of a repeal, now give.”

When everybody is nice and polite and invisible, it’s more of a reason for the President on down to behave as if you’re not there.
When you’re loud and more aggressive, then the opposition’s attitude is that you’re too in their faces and down their throats.

The fact that the press and the public was banned from Lafayette Parks speaks to the preference for silence and invisibility.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Meanwhile, exemplary and committed gay service personnel are losing their careers, and our country is losing options when it comes to qualified people.

This isn’t about gay people being impatient, there is legitimate urgency in these actions. Damned do or don’t.
Our nation owes it’s soldiers, gay or not, a reason why we are endangering EVERYONE with this foot dragging.

And that endangerment comes from too many deployments of the same personnel, lowering standards so that seriously questionable recruits are put in the ranks, and that bigotry is indulged more than the simple expectation that command can inspire their troops to greatness within their diversity.

Lt. Choi and his fellows shouldn’t HAVE to do anything like this in the first place to get attention.
WHO they are, their service record and commitment to be soldiers in the first place should speak for itself.

Obama is full of shit, so is every elected leader on this issue.
What this is really saying is just how cowardly, and lacking in real leadership they really are to deserve the offices they hold.

Tommy
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

These protests will finally force the Democrats to either fulfill their promises to us, or finally admit they have no intention of helping us, just taking our money.

If the Democrats are looking at midterms, they need to pass items like ENDA. The Democrats biggest problem at the moment is the apathy of the Obama voters who watched the Democratic congress bungle health-care, delivering an entirely Republican/Conservative version of the bill even knowing no Republicans would vote for it. They let their base slide into apathetic territory, and it is killing them. And now one large, motivated, organized, and wealthy section of that base is angry…

Priya Lynn
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

Paul asked “Is this what a man of substance and a leader of our community really should be doing?”.

Yes, absolutely.

Ben in Oakland
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

I will add a somewhat different vperspective. I absolutely support anyone who stands up and says “I’m here, I’m queer. Get over yourself.”

The enemy is the closet, not whatever the current figurehead is. Putting a face to the object of anti-gay hatred is never a mistake.

I would love to see 500 servicemen march on the whitehouse and say “we’re queer.” 500 chainnig themselves to the gates would be even better.

As long as we’re isolated, they can pick us offo ne by one.

Jason D
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

“I would love to see 500 servicemen march on the whitehouse and say “we’re queer.” 500 chainnig themselves to the gates would be even better.”

Ben, I am wondering if that is indeed the plan, incrementally.

Ben in Oakland
April 21st, 2010 | LINK

494 to go.

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