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VIDEO, PHOTOS: 13 Veterans and DADT Repeal Advocates Chain Themselves to White House Fence, Call for Senate Action

(image chris geidner twitter)

Thirteen gay rights advocates, veterans, and advocates for repeal of DADT are currently chained to the White House fence, calling for the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama to make good on their promises to secure the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the abbreviated, lame-duck session of Congress that started today.

Refresh for updates, below...

According to a press release from GetEQUAL:

The 13 veterans and repeal advocates arrested today include:

  • Five veterans (Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, and Cadet Mara Boyd) who were arrested back in March during the GetEQUAL organized “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act of civil disobedience at the White House fence demanding President Obama show leadership on repeal.
  • Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL, and Dan Fotou, action strategist for GetEQUAL.
  • Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was discharged in 1976 for declaring and admitting she was a lesbian. She became the first-ever LGBT servicemember reinstated to her position in the U.S. Military, by a U.S. Federal District Court. On July 30th, 1993, Miriam and 26 other protesters were arrested at the White House fence for protesting then-President Bill Clinton’s broken promise to repeal the gay ban – instead signing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill into law.
  • Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Elzie was also the first soldier to be discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to fight his discharge and win – resulting in his service as a Marine for four years as an openly gay man.
  • Former U.S. Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, who was discharged from the Army in December 2004 after announcing to his superiors that he was gay. Finkenbinder is an Iraq war veteran and was about to return for a second tour of duty when he was discharged.
  • U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal Advocate Rob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
  • Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest who spoke out against the church’s official stance in support of California’s Proposition 8, removing the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Because of his courageous stance against Prop 8, Father Geoff Farrow was removed as pastor of St. Paul’s by his bishop and suspended as a priest.
  • Scott Wooledge, a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written extensively on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam's House Blend.
  • Michael Bedwell, long-time LGBT civil rights advocate, close friend of Leonard Matlovich, and administrator of the site

Developing (refresh for updates)...

(image chris geidner/twitter)

2:18 pm - Dan Choi leads protesters in Pledge of Allegiance.

Police have cleared the area. The activists are reportedly chanting "Barack Obama... Silent homophobia".

(image joe sudbay americablog/twitter)

2:29 pm - GetEqual tweets "Activists shout out their names as police watch from sidelines."

2:37 pm - GetEQual tweets "The 13 are yelling 'We want change!' to the White House while Secret Service moves in."

2:38 pm - GetEQUAL tweets "Those on the fence are chanting 'President Obama, do the right thing!' while Secret Service give multiple warnings"

Towleroad has learned that the handcuff locks have been super-glued, making arrest more difficult.

Here's some video from HuffPost at the demonstration:

The Washington Blade's Chris Johnson reports:

The protesters superglued their handcuff locks, and, despite repeated warnings from U.S. Park Police, didn’t remove themselves from the White House fence. As police forcibly removed the activists, they dragged their feet as they were hauled into a paddy wagon. It took five police officers to remove Choi from the fence, hand-cuff him and drag him to the van.

After their arrest, the protesters were taken to Anacostia Park Station. The charges and penalties they’re facing as a result of their arrest wasn’t immediately known.


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  1. Great idea. Wrong building.

    Posted by: BobN | Nov 15, 2010 2:25:23 PM

  2. Why aren't they at the Senate building?
    Why not chain yourselves in McCains office?

    Posted by: Bobo | Nov 15, 2010 2:39:19 PM

  3. In my opinion, bloggers don't really have business chaining themselves to the white house fence alongside actual service members demanding DADT repeal.

    Posted by: Mike C. | Nov 15, 2010 2:42:02 PM

  4. At least they are out there, trying to do something, not at home blogging about it.

    Posted by: TripPsyc | Nov 15, 2010 2:46:35 PM

  5. Dan Choi has chained himself to the White House so many times that his handcuffs have security clearance.

    Posted by: Gregoireire | Nov 15, 2010 2:50:55 PM

  6. I'm honestly surprised Michael Bedwell isn't wearing Leonard Matlovich's dress uniform. Such restraint must have been difficult for him.

    Posted by: crispy | Nov 15, 2010 2:54:09 PM

  7. There are four bloggers among the 13, including one who is a former service member, Autumn Sandeen. Robin McGehee blogs on occasion while Scott Wooledge and Michael Bedwell have been very prolific in speaking out and organizing activism on this issue. These 13 people reflect a great diversity of backgrounds just as LGBT people in general. They are a great group to be standing up for our rights.

    Posted by: Craig | Nov 15, 2010 3:03:00 PM

  8. Why aren't they chaining themselves up outside of the offices of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins? They are part of the ongoing Republican filibuster of the bill that could be voted on and passed and signed in a matter of days. Democrats voted to eliminate DADT in the House, and have the votes to do it in the Senate if Republicans will vote to end debate.

    Posted by: Ian | Nov 15, 2010 3:23:48 PM

  9. @Ian & Bobo

    Thank you.

    Or Scott Brown's

    Or even Blanche Lincoln's or Mark Pryor's office.

    If they can get Lincoln, then they need 2 votes and it's out of the hands of Congress.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Nov 15, 2010 3:28:09 PM

  10. Because that would be too strategic.

    Posted by: Rowan | Nov 15, 2010 4:01:19 PM

  11. My total support to this guys... Im in texas but if i were on DC Ill be right next to this guys.

    Posted by: Roberto | Nov 15, 2010 4:17:48 PM

  12. Good for them.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Nov 15, 2010 4:26:47 PM

  13. Stupid, childish behavior. These self-important activists think we can simply irritate people into submission. All they are doing is forcing people to avoid us. GetEQUAL has spent the last year (and $700,000) making the LGBT Community look stupid. They should GetLOST before we run out of friends.

    Posted by: Jenny Q | Nov 15, 2010 4:58:58 PM

  14. @ Jenny Q : and would you have posted the same comment about ACT UP in the 80's ?

    "........before we run out of friends....." ha ha ha, you're being funny , right ?

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Nov 15, 2010 5:53:39 PM

  15. I don't agree with gay people wanting to join an organization that kills and manes people in senseless wars, but at least be strategic in your plan of action.

    Posted by: Halely | Nov 15, 2010 6:22:00 PM

  16. *sigh* Such a simple step,yet those in charge refuse to act.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Nov 15, 2010 9:32:48 PM

  17. It's the 80s fool. Tell Choi and GetEQUAL to grow up. IT'S 2010! Acting like a child doesn't help us.

    Posted by: Jenny Q | Nov 15, 2010 10:33:30 PM

  18. No, Jenny Q... inaction is what doesn't help us. I support them over your silly haughty put-downs. What are you doing to change the policy? Please, do tell.

    Posted by: Ricky | Nov 15, 2010 11:54:02 PM

  19. Just more childish publicity stunts from GetEQUAL. This latest stunt won't change any Senators mind or create any public support for our equality. This childish idea that we can "embarrass, humiliate or irritate people into submission" is delusional. Protest and civil disobedience are for problems the pubic ISN'T aware of. 98% of America knows about our struggle. If we keep up this childish behavior we will lose more support.

    This small band of paid activists is really just trying to get attention so they can raise money. They have salaries of $90,000 per year and have already wasted $700,000. For most of these "actions" they fly people in from other cities. They have never attracted more than 4 or 5 participants for their 11 stunts.

    This latest stunt was ignored by the mainstream media and most of the LGBT media. People have figured out these childish stunts don't help our community and only enrich a few self-described "activists."

    Posted by: AndrewW | Nov 16, 2010 4:24:57 AM

  20. Lots of juvenile comments from people who don't understand the issue. Perhaps it's jealousy.

    Choi and GetEQUAL once again do the right thing, at the right place. Obama is commander in chief, and he's president. Yet he has not done any lobbying for DADT. He makes speeches, but doesn't actually talk to the legislators. And we can tell from his court filings what he really thinks.

    Further, the protest visibly demonstrates that this is a serious issue, affecting serious people, who are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to focus attention on it. It's not just an academic debate. It also makes Obama morally and publicly responsible for anything negative that happens to them.

    Obama is a homophobe (but I disagree... he's not silent about it at all. He's against gay people's basic right to marry, and just read what his employees write about gay people in court filings)

    Posted by: Randy | Nov 16, 2010 6:01:01 AM

  21. I would like to offer mt total support and respect to the views added here (for the most part!) and say to these people good luck, and youre all doing a brilliant job.
    In the United Kingdom we have openly gay Officers and Troopers, Mounted Cavalry, Marines, Submariners, Naval Personel, Commanders, Captains and even the odd Admiral or two!.
    And... it harms our services not one jot.
    Good Luck!

    Posted by: Philip in London | Nov 16, 2010 3:05:02 PM

  22. I love all the armchair quarterbacking from Jenny and Andrew and the rest of you who are doing notafuckingthing except sitting comfortably at your computers.

    smug shitasses.

    Posted by: Danny | Nov 16, 2010 10:33:14 PM

  23. Dear Jenny Q,

    Your derogatory comments regarding GetEQUAL are almost identical to those of “Andrew W”on various other sites. Why the hatred towards GetEQUAL? I am a serving member of GetEQUAL’s Board of Directors. My salary is ZERO; in fact, I had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection this July. I took part in the Direct Action at the White House. Direct Action is a valid civil rights principle used by Gandhi, Dr. King and Act-Up. If you’d like to read my rationale for this particular action read “Why I handcuffed myself to the White House fence” on my site

    Father Geoff Farrow

    Posted by: Geoffrey Farrow | Nov 18, 2010 8:26:55 PM

  24. It's good to see some of the REAL heroes get recognition as opposed to those who jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute.

    Posted by: Mike W. | Dec 20, 2010 8:34:26 PM

  25. Years of polite activism went nowhere. It just helped line the pockets of some major organizations that were supposed to be working on our behalf. The in-your-face tactics of Lt. Choi and the others was EXACTLY what was needed to shock and shame this country into doing the right thing. To those who are so critical, what were YOU doing to help the cause? Hiding behind your keyboard?

    Posted by: Mike W. | Dec 20, 2010 8:43:44 PM

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