Many people thought that GetEqual would let the dust settle after Monday night’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell protest in California. Many people were wrong. Oh, how they were wrong.
From left to right, the six servicemembers were Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen (Trans advocate and Pam’s House Blend barista), Lt. Choi, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Cpt. Pietrangelo, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Petty Officer Larry Whitt. These six servicemembers represent all branches of military service. (GetEqual grand poo-bah Robin McGehee is below on the right.)
This was a peaceful and relatively small protest, but the DC Park Police went absolutely nuts, closed the park, pushing the crowd of mostly tourists and the media back several blocks, much further than is customary. It was really nervous-making for a bit there; historically, bad things happen when governments prevent reporters from covering anti-government protests. Fortunately, John Aravosis of Americablog.com was present to film the pushback.
While the crowd and the press were being pushed back, officers began arresting the protesters. Three were gone before the media were let back in, with Lt. Choi and the other two arrested shortly thereafter.
Park Police spokesman Sergeant David Schlosser later fell on his sword for the action, blaming rookies in the force for making the decision. I have to say, it’s surprising to hear that rookies are guarding the White House and making major decisions like this in such a sensitive area. And I don’t see anybody who looks rookie-age in the video above.
At any rate, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs addressed the police issue on Wednesday. (I’ll get to the rest of his comments in another post.)
Okay, so back to the protesters. Like last time, they were held overnight. (Does anybody know if that’s customary in DC? I have a hard time believing that it is.) They were arraigned Wednesday, with Sandeen, Thomas, Boyd, and Whitt being released and their cases closed under a “post and forfeit” agreement.
Choi and Pietrangelo were arraigned separately because of last month’s offense, and after sorting out a stay-away order, the judge set their trial on both offenses for July 16, 2010.
Metro Weekly‘s Chris Geidner posted these brief comments from several of the servicemembers outside the courtroom.
So was the protest successful? I think so. The issue is being talked about, and it’s definitely on the President’s radar now. People are asking why the President is absent on DADT repeal this year when he was so adamant about it in January.
Between the pressure of the California protest directly to President Obama and the DC protest at the White House, the President’s script is being questioned and it has become less politically savvy to ignore LGBT rights. I don’t think we’re there yet, not by a long shot, but we’re quite a bit closer than we were Monday morning.
As for Lt. Choi, he’s back in New York for Army training this weekend.
Released from DC Jail, judge orders stay away from WH. Going to Army training wknd tomorrow.
— Dan Choi (@ltdanchoi) April 22, 2010