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


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.

(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.


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.


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!" 



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


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...


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:


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  1. UMMMMMM Understand something Rosa Parks was NOT a staged event. The woman has said time and time again she was tired froma hard days work and REFUSED to move.

    That's not staged!

    Posted by: Chris | Mar 19, 2010 12:32:42 AM

  2. Chris, you need to learn your american history. It's embarrassing... Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist long before she ever refused to give up her seat. She planned what she did down to the last detail explicitly as an act of civil disobedience. In fact, there were many rosa parks's prior to her who did exactly what she did as an act of protest. They didn't get the same notoriety because of wrong place, wrong time. It was intentional on their part, and on hers. Your ignorance is...hopefully tractable.

    Posted by: TANK | Mar 19, 2010 12:50:38 AM

  3. Rob from above . . .I hope the problem is clear to volunteers and those on the inside who think HRC or know HRC is doing the work. Having worked for national progressive political organizations, I know a few things:

    1. If you aren't making a difference in the states and communicating those successes, you could be doing better.

    2. What they did to Margaret Cho at the DNC was as inexcusable as endorsing Al D'Amato. To me it wasn't just that they took these actions, but that these actions revealed a ridiculous lack of understanding of the issues, and the value of having an out woman of color speaking for an organization that had been white white white.

    3. HRC fought for a non-inclusive ENDA choosing to leave folks behind that didn't have enough of a voice in the board room. This alone was enough for many to leave over.

    4. For many years, HRC's black tie dinners were a place for gay men to dress up, pay a good price and rest assured that a 90% white board of directors was taking care of that pesky advocacy work.

    5. The Millenium March was the height of HRC's rejection of "the people" with a platform that called for less protection, less equality, and less coalition building than the previous marches on Washington.

    6. After the massive prop 8 loss, HRC should have been in action, making protests happen or promoting those that did. Nada. For days and days. What?

    The thing is, HRC is great at black tie dinners, stickers, and raising money for Democrats, many of whom do not support our equality. IF they are having major legislative successes, it is not clear. If they are working with people on the ground and having those folks guide their action agenda, it is not clear.

    Posted by: Tina Drew | Mar 19, 2010 2:02:34 AM

  4. @ Bob: Actions speak louder than words. So far HRC has been all talk and little else. Until I actually see the organization making some effort to further our cause, rather than throwing some pretty publicity "party", I might be more inclined to lend my support, and my money. Until then, you are just dead weight, like the rest of the fat cats on Capital Hill.

    We need change, not pretty words. That goes for all those so-called gay organizations and the politicians. As an American, I am pissed. As a gay man, I am livid. As a group, we have been waiting since the 70's on empty promises. How much longer do we have to wait?

    Posted by: Bryant | Mar 19, 2010 3:15:14 AM

  5. Michael @ Matlovich, like most of the people who say they want to get rid of DADT, you really don't understand or care about the military, or the gay people who are serving there. I'm not real sure that Choi does anymore, either.

    Posted by: Career | Mar 19, 2010 3:18:54 AM


    Posted by: SISTER MARIA EVANGELICA MAMMACULOS | Mar 19, 2010 8:41:45 AM

  7. Some interesting facts and figures about support for gays in the military: officers were more likely to support it than enlisted and WOMEN were the large supporters. 55% of all women polled by the military said that gays should serve openly whereas only 27% of the men. Of those numbers in support, of the men who agreed 80% of them were officers, whereas the women were across the board.

    Posted by: Rinnie | Mar 19, 2010 10:21:34 AM

  8. @Career, you don't get it.

    What would you rather do, stay in the closet? For every Dan Choi, there are hundreds of men and women discharged who either quietly fight it (meaning not in the news) or don't fight it at all.

    Maybe you're happy staying in your little closet, but I wonder if all 14000 men and women discharged would agreed.

    Posted by: DR | Mar 19, 2010 10:51:10 AM

  9. @DR, no, I don't want to stay in the closet. I don't think a prime spokesman for ending DADT should be an officer who thinks he can pick and choose which military regulations and customs, and which civilian laws, he can obey.

    Choi is unfit to be a military officer. We need a different spokesman.

    Posted by: Career | Mar 19, 2010 2:51:29 PM

  10. This was a protest conceived by Kathy Griffin in concert with HRC. I strongly support DADT, but if Dan Choi wanted to protest, he's free any time to organize a protest, not take over one that was already in place. I have been a member of HRC for many years and anyone out there who doesn't think HRC has done great things for the LGBT community, I'm sorry, but you haven't been following the progress. Have we seen you at Lobby Day where we come twice a year (as volunteers) to speak personally with our elected representatives? Have you been part of the local lobbying? HRC is at the table where change is being discussed. We are not just fundraising cocktail parties and celebrities. Come see what we do and be a part of it before you complain. I for one am proud of the work HRC does. BTW, it was Mr Franks who capitulated on the non-transgender inclusive ENDA bill a few years ago, not HRC. We are part of the group fighting for the trans-inclusive ENDA before Congress now.

    Posted by: clare | Mar 19, 2010 5:13:49 PM

  11. ...and Bravo gets a ratings wet dream. No need to actually DO anything. No need to rub shoulders with the "activist" riff-raff. No need for civil disobedience at all.

    Let's all just watch TV and change the world instead! Go ahead. Sit your dumb faggot asses down in front of the TV and watch D List! Bravo is lining up advertisers right now.

    Think about all the free publicity Griffin and Bravo have gotten.


    Posted by: MarkDC | Mar 19, 2010 6:04:33 PM

  12. Obama should invite him to The White House for lunch.

    NO Griffin.

    NO producers.

    NO Bravo film crew.

    NO Solomonese.

    Just the first Black President meeting with a Gay civil rights hero.

    Posted by: MarkDC | Mar 19, 2010 6:59:05 PM

  13. I support Lt. Choi and Captain Pietrangelo, and would have chained myself beside them. We need more heroes like these men and heroines like Ms. McGeehee as role-models for our community. I'm afraid that HRC has lost its soul.

    Sign me up for the next real rally. I'll bring a truckload of queers from CT to DC to have our voices heard.

    Posted by: MikeyMcMuffin | Mar 19, 2010 7:37:26 PM

  14. @CLARE, I share your frustration with the attacks on Human Rights Campaign. Even if that group isn't someone's cup of tea because of their style, anyone who looks at civil rights history ought to know that you need an inside/outside strategy. Shitting all over the insiders is counterproductive.

    In the DADT battle, I am optimistic. The reason I am optimistic is the process. As you know, DADT is federal law, and can only be repealed with an act of Congress. The politics are that Congress listens closely to the military brass, which in turn listens to the troops.

    All of these wheels have been turning, and a lot of that has been happening because of the boring shit that happens when no one is watching. So, recently you've had the JCS chairman and the theater commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus, testify in favor of repeal.

    It's pretty hard to overemphasize how important that testimony is. It has really cut the legs out from under the opponents, who always justified their opposition to change on the basis that the military itself was hostile to change.

    Credit here goes to the people who spent all that time, inch by inch, getting to those people. I think HRC is pretty damned important, and I for one am impressed. So, I thank YOU for your service. Seriously.

    Posted by: Career | Mar 20, 2010 6:22:00 PM

  15. hi apparently we can not find a way to communicate face to face sure you can investigate interview debate w youself and others but what it comes down to The Rock is do you have the courage to be our (my ) friend keli

    Posted by: kelly ann heyel | May 26, 2010 5:10:08 PM

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    sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with
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    Posted by: shawnmichele | Jun 23, 2010 12:54:42 AM

  17. Mr Choi is doing the right wing bigot's job for them without any of them having to be identified. His actions are doing more harm to us than any other single action. As far as the bigots are concerned, he is convincing evidence that Gays are irresponsible, destructive mental cases.

    Posted by: Jerry6 | Jul 5, 2010 9:34:41 PM

  18. I really dont understand why after so 2 years obama seems to have taken little action at repealing DADT. This is a line in the sand issue.. we are all waiting!!

    Posted by: Botox London | Jul 8, 2010 12:27:22 PM

  19. Trying to get the GLBT community (or progressives, for that matter) to agree on ANYTHING is like herding f***ing cats. This is just what the Right wants, infighting. We need the Kathy Griffins, the HRC and the Dan Choi/ Jim Pietrangelos. All of them working toward the same things. And we wonder why the TEA PARTY gets attention?

    Posted by: jp twigg | Jul 14, 2010 1:24:05 PM

  20. 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.

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