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. Obama should be ashamed. I wonder how he will explain this to his kids.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Mar 18, 2010 2:39:52 PM


  2. @DR:

    The reason I can trivialize this is because 30 people showed up to watch this? That's not trivial? The only people that are even going to know about this the people that read gay blogs and the 3 million people that watch Fox News where they will portray our community as dangerous pedophiles. THAT is what I'm saying. HOW does that help?

    Posted by: Holden | Mar 18, 2010 2:39:57 PM


  3. @Holden: Historically speaking, I think you're wrong. Civil disobedience plays a central role, and "wining the hearts and minds of the people" is precisely why HRC is a waste of time and money. Those kinds of campaigns have NEVER achieved civil rights wins.

    It wasn't until 1997 until the percentage of Americans who thought inter-racial relationships were immoral dropped below 50%. Civil rights isn't about how people *feel*, it's about legal rights and protections.

    Posted by: Julien | Mar 18, 2010 2:43:11 PM


  4. You know what, Kathy is trying to help so no need to attack her. But, what Lt. Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo did was herioc and very important and I wish she had joined them along with HRC and Joe. For those of you down-playing the action at the Whiote House or making it seem trivial, I find that appalling to say the least. Would you have said that about Rosa Parks or other such civil disobediance? This is the same type of thing and it is doing something besides sitting at your computer.

    Posted by: Rann | Mar 18, 2010 2:43:29 PM


  5. We are a long way from being equal.

    Renting a tux, paying to hear celebrities talk about the fact that I am not equal, and having spa benefits makes me feel like I have accomplished something for my community. /sarcasm

    Posted by: Human Rights Champagne Fund | Mar 18, 2010 2:45:33 PM


  6. I think it's great that Kathy Griffin speaks up for gay rights, but I in no way look to her to be willing to chain herself to the White House fence. Also, if she had, that would have made the entire action (which had nothing to do with her) seem like a stunt.

    That said, while I've admired Lt. Choi, I really think this was a mistake. It won't move the ball forward and will get him expelled from the military. (Wouldn't you want anyone in the military expelled for chaining themselves to the White House gate?)

    I understand that DADT is taking forever to be repealed and I understand the complaints that HRC isn't being pro-active. But chaining yourself to the White House is something you do when your cause is almost anonymous and you have nothing to lose, not when your cause is a daily topic of conversation on Capitol Hill.

    Sorry, I think this will wind up being a mistake. I hope I'm wrong and I will be glad to admit so if I am.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Mar 18, 2010 2:49:03 PM


  7. @Rann - This is not Rosa Parks. This was a staged event. He was going to the White House to get arrested. It's a stunt. I don't know what's so Ballzy about planning to get arrested and getting arrested?

    @Julien - Very good point. My fear is that the gay community gets lumped into the countless groups on the left fringe that protest for protests sake.

    Posted by: Holden | Mar 18, 2010 2:51:21 PM


  8. @Holden. Please tell me you didn't make it this far without knowing that Rosa Parks arrest was part of an event as well. A planned, strategic, act of civil disobedience?

    Posted by: Champagne Fund | Mar 18, 2010 2:54:19 PM


  9. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Rosa Park's bus-sitting episode actually planned, and only looked to be spontaneous?

    As for today's event, we can argue about it all day long - but the two soldiers did something ballsy. Sometimes that stuff is wise, sometimes not. It's almost always courageous. And is more than I'm willing to do (especially for DADT repeal, but that's another story) ... so my hat's off to them.

    Posted by: Zlick | Mar 18, 2010 2:57:44 PM


  10. The important issue is neither HRC nor Kathy Griffin but the President...and that was Dan's entire purpose today in not just getting arrested by civilian police, but risking an indictment under the UCMJ for wearing his uniform at a political protest.

    It's not D-list starettes or A-lister gay orgs but that the President who repeatedly promised to ACTIVELY FIGHT to end DADT has ....out of the irrational fear that ACTUALLY fighting for repeal will cost Dems votes....simply blown air kisses at it, refused to use his legal powers to freeze discharges, and sent his SECDEF et al. to Congress to insist that DADT must NOT be repealed until after they've done their "study."

    And, OOOOOPS, we're so sorry but that study will not be done until after Nov. 2nd when the buzzer will sound, ending this game they're playing, and the chances of repealing the ban for YEARS!

    Yesterday, ABC evening news wasted five minutes showing basketball-obsessed Obama making his picks for the NCAA tourney, reinforcing the obviousness of his applying bball strategy to avoiding DADT repeal.

    It's called: "running out the clock."

    Posted by: Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | Mar 18, 2010 2:57:58 PM


  11. @Holden:

    It would help if the gay community backed our own instead of allowing a celebrity to turn a civil rights weekend into reality tv fodder. That's why she showed up, with cameras in tow. For her TV SHOW.

    Posted by: DR | Mar 18, 2010 2:58:33 PM


  12. Rosa Parks staged her civil disobedience, too. She was a civil rights activist. Texas board of education got their hooks into you, huh... It was intentional and planned. Holden, you don't know history...go away.

    Posted by: TANK | Mar 18, 2010 2:59:25 PM


  13. Hey Holden, tell us exactly what size protest gets your seal of approval.

    I note that on 1 February 1960, FOUR African-American men sat at a lunch counter at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro, NC and wouldn't leave because the store wouldn't serve them. So based upon your logic, this was a complete waste of time because of the small number of participants and the fact that it was a planned protest.

    Good lord.

    Posted by: homerh | Mar 18, 2010 3:03:11 PM


  14. Kathy Griffin was placed in an impossible situation... hang back and look like she's more into the HRC than civil disobedience, or follow Choi and look like she's using his protest as a publicity stunt. She couldn't win.

    Unless she knew all along that Choi was going to do this, in which case... game, set, match, Miss Griffin.

    Either way, Choi and Griffin want the same exact thing... more publicity and visibility for DADT hearings and the push for prompt repeal.

    Bravo, Kathy and Dan. I'm behind ya.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Mar 18, 2010 3:03:55 PM


  15. I hope kathy griffin told a lot of "funny" jokes to keep the crowd "entertained"...about her gays...you know, those gays that are hers...ha ha ha ha...that's me simulating laughter.

    Posted by: TANK | Mar 18, 2010 3:05:00 PM


  16. Love Kathy, love Dan and also love that little girl in MS who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. It's all good. Whatever works to bring attention to our plight.

    Posted by: Jersey | Mar 18, 2010 3:17:55 PM


  17. Jersey has the most diplomatic comment ever! I like it.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Mar 18, 2010 3:21:20 PM


  18. I hate to say it, but being gay and in the military, Lt Choi has just given the military a perfect reason to discharge him and the Capt. Military regulations state you never, ever politically protest in uniform. Further, getting arrested will allow the military to release him under conduct unbecoming. I admired him and the military for allowing him to serve openly these past months--DADT seem to not have been applied to him. But I think he may have made a serious mistake now. Not sure what he was thinking. You can push change so far.

    Posted by: Robert | Mar 18, 2010 3:23:28 PM


  19. I have been a supporter of the HRC for some years now .. I am DONE with it . It reminds me of the 50's "polite negro" not to rile the Mr Man too much . Yet it took a black lady, Rosa Parks to stand up and show she had had enough !!! and that she had some backbone...

    Posted by: MarkBoston | Mar 18, 2010 3:28:11 PM


  20. Get back in your closet, robert!

    Posted by: TANK | Mar 18, 2010 3:28:47 PM


  21. Kathy Griffin was way out of her league in D. C. today. Joe Solmonese showed himself to be a tired old auntie, a washed-up joke. Someone should have bitch-slapped his tired ass for Robin McGehee. How does that clown merit leadership of the HRC? Hats off to Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo. I hope they are released soon. I hope that Rachel Maddow interviews both tonight!

    Posted by: Perry | Mar 18, 2010 3:32:21 PM


  22. Solmonese is a self-serving COWARD.

    Posted by: gaylib | Mar 18, 2010 3:55:18 PM


  23. where do i send $$ to help in choi's legal fees that'll come from this?
    i, perhaps naively, have faith that kathy will turn this into a whole episode that will show us in a positive light. she's smart enough to know not to piss off her audience, right?

    Posted by: ruby | Mar 18, 2010 3:59:27 PM


  24. drama queenery. Yaaawn.

    Posted by: Jane Roe | Mar 18, 2010 4:14:24 PM


  25. @ The Milkman - I was thinking the same thing. Kathy might just have knew Dan was going to show up.

    @ Tank - Go fuck yourself.

    Posted by: REYnoldo | Mar 18, 2010 4:28:49 PM


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