Thirteen activists were arrested Monday afternoon for chaining themselves to the White House gates in protest over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what they perceived as President Obama’s lack of action in stopping the discharges of gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the U.S. armed forces.
The protesters were affiliated with GetEQUAL, a group that’s organized acts of civil disobedience throughout the country over LGBT issues. Among the protesters were Lt. Dan Choi, a gay Iraq war veteran who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL.
In a statement, GetEQUAL touted how three generations of LGBT activists were arrested as a result of the action. Others who were arrested include former U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Elzie, who’s gay and the first Marine discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993, as well as Michael Bedwell, a long-time advocate of LGBT rights and open service in the U.S. military.
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.
Autumn Sandeen, a transgender activist and Navy veteran who was among the 13 people arrested, told the Blade prior to the protest that she participated to bring more attention to the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and to show transgender solidarity with gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.
“Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will not affect transgender people one bit,” she said. “Gay, lesbian and bisexual people will be able to serve openly, but transgender people will not. But I’m part of a broader community: the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
Sandeen said putting pressure on the White House could push President Obama to move forward with advancing an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She recalled similar protests in the spring prompted the administration to endorse a repeal compromise passed by the U.S. House.
“What we hope to do is put pressure on the White House and the president, President Obama, to fulfill the promise to actually put pressure on the Senate to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” she said.