So today’s Human Rights Campaign rally in D.C., happening right now after the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings wrapped, was supposed to be a feel good event with Kathy Griffin. Then Lt. Dan Choi bounded on to the stage after Griffin, told her that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not a joke, and says he’s going to the White House to, uh, chain himself to the fence to protest the law that might get him kicked out of the military. Tweets reporter Kerry Eleveld: “This does not sound like it was part of the HRC script.” Maybe not but it was certainly planned: “According to this source, who is close to Lt. Choi, a number of people tried to talk him out of his plan. With the repeal underway and the study going full throttle, it is a delicate time in the repeal of DADT. This means that anything that could be seen as being problematic or aggrandizing or taking this issue less than seriously could bolster the position of those in opposition to the MREA and make passage that much more difficult.” UPDATE: Photos and video below.
Indeed, as Choi’s march to the White House proceeds (as we’re typing this), this does not appear to be part of HRC’s official plan. Choi “essentially asked Joe Solmonese to go with him,” tweets Eleveld. There are also fliers being handed out (meaning they were printed ahead of time) with instructions to follow Choi to the White House.
More from Americablog‘s Joe Sudbay: “Lieut. Dan choi heads to white house to fight for #dadt. Griffin and HRC’s Solmonese stay for photo ops. Welcome to gay dc.” And: “Dan Choi speaking in front of white house. No kathy griffin. She blew him off.”
More: Choi is with Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who (unsuccessfully) tried taking his legal challenge of DADT to the Supreme Court. DC Agenda tweets: “Secret Service is pushing everyone away from the White House fence and to the street.”
Kathy Griffin is here to film an episode of My Life on the D-List; are her cameras really not catching this?
HAPPENING NOW: Choi has cuffed himself to fence. “Dan Choi still has both arms chained to the White House fence. He’s standing there stoically and silently. … Police are not attempting to disperse the crowd at this time. We believe about 20 Secret Service agents are now on scene.” (via) JOINING IN: “Captain Jim Pietrangelo has also chained himself against the white house fence” in front of crowd of 50, now down to 30. (via)
FIRST ARREST? “Robin McGehee of @GetEQUAL just arrested for “disorderly conduct” for helping Dan Choi cuff himself to the White House.” (via) Robin tweeted earlier: “Just told @JoeSolomonese to tell the President that the crazy ass mother from Fresno won’t leave.” See photos at right.
TWITTER BACKLASH BEGINS: Zach Oldham tweets: “memo to Lt Choi, et al: Obama doesn’t really care about you. move along & be patient–he may have use for you in 2012.”
HRC BACKLASH BEGINS: “Sick of hearing abt @LtDanChoi and #DADT. If anyone should be arrested over failure to repeal #DADT, it’s Joe Solmonese & #HRC.” (via)
PRAYER: “One female woman is kneeling in the crowd with hands raised, praying for the souls of gay people.” (via)
CROWDS CLEARING: “Police just warned that all must leave the sidewalk in front of White House or be arrested. Choi & Pietrangelo are only two remaining.” (via)
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: “Gibbs finally asked about Choi’s #DADT protest, says WH got no heads up & there were no plans for the President to meet with him.” (via)
CHANTING: Listen in:
REMOVED & ARRESTED: “Choi and Pietrangelo have been arrested.” (via)
Watch video of arrest:
PHOTOS: In front of the White House.
PRESS RELEASE: PR firm Sunshine & Sachs already blast press release:
Discharged U.S. Army Lieutenant Walked to the White House Demanding Full Equality and Gay Rights
Openly Gay Lt. Dan Choi Urged President Obama to Take Action Against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After participating in the Human Rights Campaign march on Freedom Plaza Thursday afternoon, former United States Army Lieutenant Dan Choi made a public statement and marched over to the White House to demand the Obama administration take a firm stance in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Joined by former U.S. Captain Jim Pietrangelo, honorably discharged in 2004 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Lt. Choi made a public call to action in front of the White House. Their actions are a result of a general unrest among the LGBT community after Congressman Barney Frank confirmed this week that the White House has been “ambiguous” about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year.
The following statement was read by Lt. Choi outside Freedom Plaza before he set off to the White House:
“Hello. My name is Lt. Dan Choi. I am being discharged from the US Army because I am gay and dared to say it out loud.
Today, I am here on a mission with Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, and we are asking you all to join us. We’re calling you to action because we are at a turning point — a moment in time where talk is no longer enough, and action is required.
Equality is not going to happen by itself.
You have been told that the President has a plan. But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year.
And if we don’t seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time.
Some may tell you that I am one of the lucky ones. I have been welcomed back by my unit with open arms. And it would be easy for me to stay quiet and hope that change will happen.
But what I was taught at West Point and learned in war is — hope is not a strategy. As officers, James and I both find it a dereliction of our moral duty to remain silent while thousands of our brothers and sister are not allowed to serve openly and honestly.
Capt. Pietrangelo was honorably discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2004 and I will be subject to the same shortly. As officers we are here today fighting for those in the ranks, and we need our Commander in Chief to do the same.
Our fight is not here at Freedom Plaza, it is at the White House. We are walking to the White House right now to send the President a message. So…take out your cell phones and your cameras. Document this moment. Join us as together — we make history.”
EARLIER: Photos from HRC rally.