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.