Dan Choi | Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Human Rights Campaign | Joe Solmonese | Kathy Griffin | Military | News

Video, Photos, Report:
Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. Jim Pietrangelo Arrested After Chaining Themselves to White House Fence in 'DADT' Protest

Choi  

Developing...refresh for updates below...(images via twitter)

Lt. Dan Choi, Captain Jim Pietrangelo, and activist Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL were arrested earlier today following a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rally thrown by the Human Rights Campaign which featured Kathy Griffin. 

While different versions of events are being offered (see bottom of post), Lt. Choi spoke at the rally and asked participants to join him on a march to the White House. Choi led hundreds of people from the rally to the White House where he and Cpt. Pietrangelo cuffed themselves to the fence while the crowd rallied around them. Shortly thereafter Choi and Pietrangelo were cut from the fence and arrested by police. During the minutes leading up to their arrest, activist Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL was also arrested.

Kerry eleveld of the Advocate reports, in a Tweet, that Choi and Pietrangelo are being held in jail overnight and will appear tomorrow in court:

 "Police Spokes says Choi/Pietrangelo will be held overnight and appear tomorrow in DC superior court."

*****

NOTE: The following post was constructed as it happened, mostly via Twitter, which gives it its "timeline" form and somewhat disjointed narrative.

UPDATE: Late breaking statement from HRC at bottom.

According to Tweets from Robin McGehee at GetEqual (see stream below) reporting from the Kathy Griffin - Human Rights Campaign "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rally, McGehee, who is traveling with Lt. Dan Choi, asked Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese if Choi could speak at the rally and he rebuffed her, telling her it was Kathy Griffin's rally.

McGehee is the co-director of the National Equality March and the organizer of the Meet in the Middle 4 Equality rallies in California.

Rally
(above photo: Ty_DC twitter)

Choi took the stage anyway, told Griffin "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not a joke, and announced that he was marching to the White House. Choi then began leading hundreds to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Choi_march  

12:50 pm: Reports are now coming in that Choi has chained himself to the White House fence.

"Until we have full equality," Choi reportedly says.

Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo are reportedly both handcuffed to the White House fence.

Choi  

1:10 pm: According to DC Agenda's Tweet, "Yellow police tape is being put up around Dan Choi, and Secret Service agents are standing with him. Choi remains chained."

Choi3  Approximately seven Secret Service Agents are inside the tape with Choi.

Reportedly one woman has been arrested, and is being identified by DC Agenda as the co-chair of GetEqual - which would be Robin McGehee.

1:21 pm: According to D.C. Agenda, police are not attempting to disperse the crowd and 20 Secret Service are on the scene. A crowd of 50 is chanting "Keep your promise, Obama" and "Repeal DADT".

1:27 pm: DC Agenda reports that there appears to be a stand-off between Choi and security. No effort is being made to arrest him.

1:32 pm: DC Agenda says the crowd has shrunk to 30 people.

1:37 pm: DC Agenda reports that people have been directed to stand at Lafayette Square. Two Secret Service officers are speaking with Pietrangelo and Choi, and it's not clear what's happening.

GetEqual's Robin McGehee was the woman arrested, it is confirmed. According to @MichaelsThought on Twitter, McGehee was shouting, "Get equal! You want your rights?! The fight for them!" 

Photo: 

Mcgehee2  

And here's a photo of Robin McGehee being arrested:

Mcgehee  

1:44 pm: DC Agenda reports a female woman "is kneeling in the crowd with hands raised, praying for the souls of gay people."

Here is the first video posted of the crowd:

Here's what Dan Choi said at the rally - HIS REMARKS - right before he took the crowd on the march to the White House.

Wh  1:48 pm: Joe Sudbay at Americablog reports via Twitter that the crowd in front of the White House is growing.

1:55 pm: Police just informed the crowd that everyone must leave the sidewalk in front of the White House or be arrested, according to MetroWeekly. Choi and Pietrangelo are the only two remaining.

1:58 pm: Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo have been removed from the fence and arrested.

2:02 pm: Choi and Pietrangelo get cheers from the crowd as they are put into police van. Crowd applauds them as heroes.

AmericaBlog has some great coverage from on the scene.

Tweets Michelangelo Signorile: "Dan Choi took HRC's and @kathygriffin 's celebrity photo op and turned it into a real protest at White House. And they stayed behind."

CNN and MSNBC seem to have totally ignored this protest. However, as the protest was happening, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was holding a press conference in the Rose Garden. A reporter asked him if they were given a heads-up that there was civil disobedience happening outside.

Said Gibbs: "No heads up that I'm aware of, and I don't believe there's any meetings scheduled today."

2:19 pm: Kathy Griffin, who either disappeared or was advised not to follow Choi after the HRC rally, tweets...

Griffintweet  

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese was reportedly nowhere to be seen during the Choi action either.

HRC blogged about their rally late this afternoon, offering an explanation for why Solmonese and others stayed at the rally (was there any rally left after Choi departed?) and did not accompany Lt. Choi and Captain Pietrangelo to the White House: 

"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."

AmericaBlog says HRC is lying

"That is simply untrue. I was there, standing next to Dan, about 10 feet from Kathy Griffin and Solmonese. They were behind a rope line, to keep them from the rally attendees. They looked over at Dan when he asked them, for the second time, to come with him to the White House (mind you, they had no idea that he was planning to handcuff himself), and they just stared back at him. They were not helping engage the rally about how to build pressure - the rally was over, they were already off the stage, behind it actually, getting ready to leave behind a secure rope line to separate them from the crowd. I'm sorry, but this statement is flat out untrue. They were getting their photos taken. Unbelievable."

ABC is one of the first MSM reporters to cover the story: "An Iraq war veteran and vocal opponent of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was arrested by police officers after chaining himself to the front gate of the White House, in apparent protest of that policy."

CNN Coverage (at 3:10pm):

AP Raw Video:

BELOW: Robin McGehee's Twitter stream prior to her arrest, as the Choi White House action was getting underway:

Mcgehee
 

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Comments

  1. Rad.

    Posted by: HomoDM | Mar 18, 2010 1:15:18 PM


  2. Once again, Joe Solomonese and HRC show how anti-gay they are and how unwilling they are to do what it takes to win equality. Folks, it's time to kill HRC and use their vast amounts of cash to really fight for and win equality. Joe, how does Obama's asshole taste?

    Posted by: Norm D PLume | Mar 18, 2010 1:23:22 PM


  3. ROCK ON CHOI!

    Posted by: Keith | Mar 18, 2010 1:25:17 PM


  4. I applaud Dan for what he's doing, but I fear he has now handed the military a perfectly bona fide reason for discharging him without regard to DADT. Seems like a strategic error to me, but maybe he knows what he's doing.

    Posted by: Glenn | Mar 18, 2010 1:34:22 PM


  5. I knew he was gay...didn't know he was into BDSM.

    Posted by: Ace | Mar 18, 2010 1:34:24 PM


  6. HOORAH, Lt Choi! Show HRC we need real gay men and women speaking out for us, not some hag to turn the effort to repeal DADT into some sort of joke!

    Posted by: DR | Mar 18, 2010 1:37:49 PM


  7. was just over at Pam's House Blend checking the tweet of Joe Sudbay...you gotta read this;

    Lt. Dan Choi heads to white house to fight for DADT. Griffin and HRC's Solmonese stay for photo ops. Welcome to gay DC.

    Posted by: Keith | Mar 18, 2010 1:38:32 PM


  8. Just came from the protest - Choi did chain himself to the fence along with another soldier. One woman has been arrested and the security began to swarm the crowd as soon as Choi took out the handcuffs. The protest is amazing and still going after i left. One woman screamed at me about God but I wrote her off.

    Posted by: KFLO | Mar 18, 2010 1:47:51 PM


  9. "Choi began leading hundreds on the march to the White House"....."crowd has shrunk to 30 people..."

    How's that rally working out?

    Posted by: jtramon | Mar 18, 2010 1:52:20 PM


  10. yeah, a couple of idiots chaining themselves to a fence is gonna get DADT repealed right away.

    Posted by: Brian | Mar 18, 2010 1:58:19 PM


  11. Lt Dan Choi and Capt Jim Pietrangelo are the kind of person I want in our armed forces. Brave, loyal, strong.

    And to Ace, comment above, don't be so stupid. This is a serious issue; leave the juvenile stuff out of it, OK?

    Posted by: libsechumanist | Mar 18, 2010 2:00:19 PM


  12. It's about time we fight back! If we all did what @brian likes (sitting back and complaining) then nothing would get done! Most people appear to have been there on their lunch breaks - too bad this didn't take place on the weekend or else the crowd would have been larger!

    Posted by: beegee | Mar 18, 2010 2:01:45 PM


  13. Go Dan Go. IT is time to ACT UP GLBT Americans. Our do nothing President and Do Nothing Democrats are in partnership with our fledgling voice in Washington - HRC.

    Why is Joe S at HRC not also chained to that fence.

    Posted by: chris | Mar 18, 2010 2:04:06 PM


  14. Now that's taking some action beyond attending a cocktail party! Way to go Lt. Dan...shame on HRC.

    Posted by: So Left I'm Right | Mar 18, 2010 2:05:56 PM


  15. what do you think the backlash will be like for kathy?

    Posted by: Gregsy | Mar 18, 2010 2:08:10 PM


  16. Gee, JTRamon and Bryan, I know chaining yourself to the fence of the White House is nowhere near as fashionable as paying $300 to make googly-eyes at Kathy Griffin and the HRC, but it's sure as hell what more people are gonna remember tomorrow!

    HOORAH!

    Posted by: DR | Mar 18, 2010 2:11:57 PM


  17. I'm sorry, and I might be alone here, but what is going to give this cause more positive attention? Kathy Griffin and an Emmy award winning show that everyone loves or an extremist protest filled with stunts that lumps us in with 9/11 conspiracy theorists. You want to change the ignorant minds? this is exactly the wrong way to do it. I know this is a serious matter, but with stunts like this, you will not be taken seriously by anyone.

    Posted by: Holden | Mar 18, 2010 2:17:03 PM


  18. Yeah, nothing got done sitting at the front of a bus or sitting at a Woolworth's counter either. How dare anyone demand their rights rather than fall in line like good little sheep.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 18, 2010 2:21:44 PM


  19. Holden - I am afraid you are probably right.

    Posted by: Brian | Mar 18, 2010 2:21:57 PM


  20. Mike - they didn't have to deal with cable news that makes the gay community look fringe at best. I'm not saying that civil disobedience doesn't have it's place, but if the goal is change the hearts and minds to the american people, it won't work. We need straight allies. There will be a blip on the blogs, "Two gays chain themselves to the White House" In other news...

    Posted by: Holden | Mar 18, 2010 2:28:06 PM


  21. Holden - you're wrong. Institutions of power overlook the complacent. It takes someone to get in their way and slow down capitalist operations to get noticed.

    I commend those willing to act for what they want. Talking didn't free slaves and it didn't liberate women. History says we must rise up and demand our liberties (not that I think we should be partying with the military anyhow... Fight for Peace!)

    Posted by: John | Mar 18, 2010 2:32:35 PM


  22. @Holden:

    The only way this won't be effective is if we continue to trivialize this. I don't give a rat's behind that the HRC charged some ridiculous amount to sit and listen to a D-List "celebrity" spew off about how she thinks it's unfair for gays to serve their country.

    If we as a community continue to minimize the actions of our own members in favor of showing off our straight allies, we're gonna get NOWHERE fast.

    That's the problem. Everyone knows who Dan Choi is, and everyone ought to know who Captain Jim Pietrangelo is since he took his dismissal to the USSCT. But instead we follow the straight lady around.

    Maybe we're making heroes of all the wrong people? I think so.

    Posted by: DR | Mar 18, 2010 2:32:47 PM


  23. How disgusting that HRC had to get their filthy hands in the mix. HRC is one of the biggest frauds in the gay community. Grass roots glbt can do a far better job about this issue that HRC and loud mouth Griffin. Any credibility that was present at this demonstration was invalidated when Griffin open her mouth.

    Posted by: Sharon | Mar 18, 2010 2:36:37 PM


  24. HRC has some committed folks, but for years went into states, held black-tie fundraisers and carted off buckets of cash with little to no local impact. HRC censored Margert Cho, putting tape over the mouth of one of our most rigorous allies and community members when she had the opportunity to speak in front of powerful decisionmakers at the DNC. They've fought for a non-inclusive ENDA and are spending more than a quarter million a year on their Director, who as far as I can tell, does not lead any sort of ground game that has created wins for the community. I'm tiring of the sticker shock.

    I also decided to stop donating or engaging them after being told for the upteenth time that I should contact my senators (via their callers and direct mail) I lived in DC. How hard is it to do a zip sort to take into account that DC residents have no vote?

    They can do better and when someone who has been thrown out of the military for serving their country wants to speak, you say, how fast can we get you on the podium and you take your Kathy Griffin moment later in the day.

    I LOVE that she ws there and hope she builds relationships with organizations beyond HRC.

    Posted by: Human Rights Champagne Fund | Mar 18, 2010 2:37:03 PM


  25. Holden, I think we're way beyond worrying what everyone thinks of us. I doubt sitting pretty and waiting for our turn will make news, and news is what we need. Constant exposure and constant, unrelenting pressure.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks the HRC, in light of recent advancements in gay rights, are doubling down on their efforts to stay relevant. If we are equal, their job is done - and how will they keep getting invited to cocktail parties on The Hill?

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 18, 2010 2:39:20 PM


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