Dan Choi | Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Military | News

Dan Choi Testifies for More Than Three Hours in 'DADT' Trial

Lt. Dan Choi testified for three hours yesterday in the trial over his arrest at the White House after protesting the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, MetroWeekly reports:

2_choi On the stand, Choi said the First Amendment provides for the right of people to petition the government for a redress of grievances, which also, he said, is a moral responsibility of patriotic Americans. Choi responded under questioning by Feldman that he believed his actions were a form of speech, and that the government did not have a right to censor them by arresting him.

At times, Choi raised his voice and spoke in such a tone that he almost seemed close to shouting, especially when asked about his arrest. Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, he compared the various protests against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the 1960 sit-in by students in Greensboro, N.C., at a Woolworth’s department store and said he was “insulted” by his prosecution on federal charges.

“The November 15th arrest is surprising in my mind,” Choi said, comparing the tactics used by police officers to remove him from the fence and transport him to the police wagon to procedures taught to soldiers in war. Choi said his left arm had been twisted and he could not feel his index finger for two weeks afterward, statements he said were reinforced by videos showing his arrest.

The AP adds:

"The right to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves is more than a privilege," said Choi, his voice rising with emotion during a cross-examination that turned confrontational at times. "It's a moral responsibility and I take that seriously."

Choi said he could not recall details of his arrest, but likened the scene to a "combat zone" and recalled being struck by what he considered to be aggressive and demeaning tactics by the U.S. Park Police officers who showed up.

Choi's trial began on Monday. Choi faces 6 months in prison or a $5,000 fine for an obscure infraction of Parks and Wildlife federal regulations. Twelve other activists accepted a plea deal, agreeing to a guilty plea in federal court for which they would serve no jail time if not re-arrested within four months. Choi would not accept the deal.

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  1. Choi speaking for almost three hours? Colour me shocked, just shocked I say!

    Posted by: lotusstarshine | Aug 31, 2011 8:41:22 AM

  2. "LOTUSSTARSHINE" is "shocked" that Choi spoke for almost three hours?

    I'm shocked the people in the courtroom didn't just hang themselves.

    Please, somebody, make.this.guy.go.away.

    Posted by: jtramon | Aug 31, 2011 8:57:25 AM

  3. This person is a publicity hog and does not speak for all gay soldiers. He talks about being in combat but never was in any. He stayed in the "rear with the gear" (insert crude joke). He could serve as a representative but he is not palatable to audiences at large.

    Posted by: Will | Aug 31, 2011 9:04:34 AM

  4. is he suggesting that handcuffing oneself to the white house fence is a form of protected speech?

    Posted by: Jackie | Aug 31, 2011 9:16:24 AM

  5. The most dangerous place to stand is between Dan Choi and a camera.

    Posted by: Jim | Aug 31, 2011 9:35:22 AM

  6. I am of two minds about Choi. I completely reject the disrespectful tone of the prior comments. A soldier doesn't pick his mission. He didn't choose either to go to Iraq or to "stay in the rear with the gear". The important point is that he volunteered to serve and endured hardship and danger when he could have pursued a much easier life. And for the record, in an insurgency, there is no rear.

    As for Choi himself, at times I think he is eloquent and moving and at other times a bloviating gasbag.

    I think that this case is being pursued against him with malice. I have never heard of any nonviolent sidewalk obstruction case being prosecuted to this degree probably since the 1960s. That there is a trial over this is strange enough. That it is happening in spite of the judge's clear indication that he thinks the case shouldn't be prosecuted makes it bizarre. Incidentally, the fact that the judge is allowing Choi to testify for 3 hours about an incident that probably lasted 10 minutes, and to make broader points about civil disobedience is further indication that he doesn't think much of the prosecution. Even if convicted, there is no chance of the judge giving Choi any jail time.

    That having been said, I doubt Choi helped himself by shouting. It will be interesting to see how the jury reacted to his testimony.

    Posted by: David | Aug 31, 2011 9:39:08 AM

  7. Let me clarify some points. I am combat wounded veteran who for the most part was out to my fellow soldiers during my service. I understand Choi's frustration but he is not suited to be a leader in the movement. Unfortunately the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, sometimes it's to much.

    Posted by: Will | Aug 31, 2011 9:47:59 AM

  8. I lost respect for Lt. Dan Choi. This guy is delusional. A White House protest is not way the same as the protests in Greensboro, NC. Choi needs to chain himself to the St. Elizabeths fence.

    Posted by: Kenton | Aug 31, 2011 9:55:22 AM

  9. It's hard to say this is being prosecuted with malice when Choi refused to accept a plea deal that would have amounted to no punishment. I have been arrested for civil disobedience several times before - the whole point is we are breaking the law, and accepting the punishment that comes with it. In almost all cases, we plead guilty, and there is no actual punishment.

    Posted by: alex | Aug 31, 2011 9:58:04 AM

  10. @David,

    during the Iraq war protests I had similar experiences without even making it to the White House fence. We were told that we would be arrested under anti-terror laws should we handcuff ourselves to the fence and told exactly what would happen. Dan Choi knew this.

    Those that went that extreme route went knowing they would go to jail and did.

    This is not an "obscure" law. This is the law, unfortunately, but that is a part of protesting.

    Think about Father Daniel Berrigan during the Vietnam protests or Dr. King during civil rights protests--civil disobedience is meant to incite action on the part of authorities...they KNEW they were going to jail and did it anyway because that is the POINT.

    Dan Choi should expect jail and desire it if his goal is truly to create change as a symbol and not just desiring of personal attention.

    Posted by: Rin | Aug 31, 2011 10:00:34 AM

  11. perhaps he just needs stronger meds from the VA..wasn't he getting help for his mental issues just earlier this year?

    Posted by: Jackie | Aug 31, 2011 10:15:56 AM

  12. @Rin, PRECISELY! If Lt. Choi really believes in this cause, he will continue to take what he must if he wishes to see change, and his endeavors have highlighted this cause. He isn't the sole mouthpiece for DADT, but just one of its many casualties, and he has every right as a proud citizen to speak his mind in the way he sees fit.

    I admire Lt. Choi for his perseverance and his dedication to the cause of both the DADT repeal and the exercise of free speech in this country. Far too many of us are too preoccupied with other trivial matters to actually dedicate such a great amount of time and effort to something like that, and I'm pretty sure he is not going to be remembered as some random rabble-rouser, but as a true patriot who stood up for something he believed in, whether you agree with his tactics or not.

    Posted by: Jesus | Aug 31, 2011 10:22:08 AM

  13. I find the negative attitudes expressed here toward Lt. Choi offensive and petty. Like him or not, his activism was a real factor in the repeal of DADT. This attitude of kicking the guy when he's down is ugly and unworthy of a community supposedly engaged in civil rights movement.

    If you think he's tiresome, go back to watching Judge Judy and the A-List. We won't miss your "contribution".

    Posted by: RWG | Aug 31, 2011 10:25:29 AM

  14. The point is not to go to jail or accept punishment (a guilty verdict or plea on your record is a punishment). If you believe that the law in question (or how it was administerd) violates your constitutional rights, than you challenge the law. If no one challenged un-constitutional laws than sodomy would still be illegal in several states.

    @Kenton - No protesting at a lunch counter in a privately owned business is not the same as protesting at the seat of executive power of our government. The later is a far more important right, a right that is even guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States of America. And a right worth fighting to protect.

    Posted by: Travshad | Aug 31, 2011 10:25:29 AM

  15. @will, want to start a business together?
    (no, really. i'm at "am 28 pic at gmail dot com", all together, or lmk your email).

    Posted by: hello | Aug 31, 2011 10:29:31 AM

  16. @Travshad, that is absolutely correct, but a great way to challenge that law is in the court room, where he is now. Challenging the law through the political process is great, when you have the financial means to do so, since unfortunately C.R.E.A.M. is not just something I put in my coffee, but doing it in the court room, where a judge can rule and other judges can use your case as precedent--well, then he might have a shot. Or, he will face jail time or a reduced sentence for his actions, which will probably prompt more people to do the same.

    Like, anyone see Daryl Hannah get arrested yesterday for her protest?

    Posted by: Jesus | Aug 31, 2011 10:37:39 AM

  17. The protest was right and important and successful, his prosecution is obviously instead a persecution, and it is right and important that he fight it.

    However, he is so mentally ill and naturally intensely unlikeable, he must saboutage his own case, as usual. No one in that court room could have remotely enjoyed listening to him rave for three hours. As he does everywhere he goes -- except among his radical, insane extreme right-wing best friends -- there is no doubt in my mind that he alienated every last person there who was on his side.

    Posted by: ohplease | Aug 31, 2011 10:58:05 AM

  18. There are two misguided types of hate (not necessarily represented in the comments on this thread) that I'd like to address.

    First, the paranoid, irrational Obama haters who will use the trial of Choi (one activist out of 13) to fabricate malice where none exists. These people will read Obama's historic anti-DOMA brief of July 1, 2011, and claim that it really shows homophobia because the Justice Department filed it on Friday, which was its scheduled deadline, in order to avoid publicity. Lawyers always work on briefs up to the deadline, but that doesn't seem to phase the Obama haters. Choi's trial? All 13 activists were offered no jail time OR FINE in exchange for no re-arrest for a mere 4 months. Can any reasonable person construe this to be malice on the part of the Obama administration? You be the judge.

    Second, the Choi haters. A problem as complex as dismantling homophobia in 21st-century America requires both an inside game (political office holders) and an outside game (political activists). Choi AND GetEQUAL played the outside game with exceptional skill and savvy during 2010, keeping DADT repeal in the headlines and the public dialogue going.

    Kudos to President Obama, Senator Levin, Congressman Murphy, Lieutenant Choi and the folks at GetEQUAL for their crucial contributions to overcoming the very intransigent, bigoted opposition to repealing DADT.

    And to the haters, please think before you write. Your essays are due in your professor's office on Monday, and hopefully, your writing will improve. As an example of excellence in argumentation, please read the historic July 1st DOJ brief attacking DOMA:


    Posted by: Artie Rimbaud | Aug 31, 2011 11:05:32 AM

  19. what on earth was he doing in Moscow getting arrested at their gay pride parade then as well?

    He just seems imbalanced to me and NOT a good representation of gays in the military or in general.

    Posted by: Jackie | Aug 31, 2011 11:08:53 AM

  20. @ Kenton,

    And by the way, Kenton, the White House protest is exactly the same as the Walgreens lunch counter protests in Greensboro, NC. How dare you disrespect the firings and ruined careers of gay servicemen? How dare you consider the discrimination they suffered as less than? Who do you think you are?

    Posted by: Artie Rimbaud | Aug 31, 2011 11:12:04 AM

  21. Wow the HRC trolls are out in force today....but I for one am not impressed with their stories of "war wounds" from paper cuts endured battling their cocktail napkins at the last wine tasting!

    Posted by: Major707 | Aug 31, 2011 11:29:31 AM

  22. @Travshad,

    YES, the point IS to go to jail. Read the writings of Gandhi, Mandela, or Dr. King. Civil disobedience is to force an unfair reaction and thus shed more light on the policy.

    I've been jailed for causes because that is the only way to get attention. Allowing people to herd you to parks where you can't cause an uproar or to not jail you ... this is are their tactics to diminish your voice.

    If you don't believe in a cause enough to go to jail for it then do a sit in, but don't chain yourself to a fence.

    But...that's modern man for ya. You care enough until it inconveniences you--that's how they win.

    Posted by: Rin | Aug 31, 2011 11:33:24 AM

  23. Remember the AIDS activists who poured the ashes of their dead lovers over the White House fence? They protested and paid the fine. Why does Choi think he is above the law?

    Posted by: Kenton | Aug 31, 2011 12:35:16 PM

  24. @ Kenton, there's something really wrong with you. Choi is fighting this because it's ridiculous that he even had to protest in the first place! Whether you like it or not, he was instrumental in making a HUGE social and political change in this country. Getting to this point was a long and hard road that cost him a lot! He's angry and he needs to be heard and if you can't understand what he's doing, or why he NEEDS to do it. You are a sad sad man.

    Posted by: RGB | Aug 31, 2011 1:13:57 PM

  25. Choi (ironically, his initials are "DC") is being charged under federal law, when normally protestors are charged under city ordinances, so his complaint is that they are making a federal case out of this, which is very rare.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 31, 2011 1:17:49 PM

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