Dan Choi Arrested at White House after HRC Rally, Upstages Kathy Griffin

Today a rally was held in Washington DC by the Human Rights Campaign to urge the White House to take immediate action against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Kathy Griffin was speaking at the event because she is famous and thinks gay people are funny. She gave a speech, made some apparently kinda off-color jokes, and then Dan Choi took the stand, told everyone they were marching to the White House, and thus they went! It was like the Pied Piper!

So while everyone inside the Capitol building was probs arguing about how best to ensure I never get my teeth cleaned for free, outside the White House Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo chained themselves to the fence and got the whole crowd totally riled up!

According to a source exclusive to Lez Get Real, Dan Choi planned this:

An unnamed source has given LGR a heads up that Lt. Dan Choi apparently plans to chain himself to the White House fence in an attempt to pressure President Barack Obama into issuing an executive order ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Apparently, Lt. Choi plans on doing this again and again until DADT is repealed by President Obama.

Towleroad reports:

According to Tweets from Robin McGehee at GetEqual (see stream below) reporting from the Kathy Griffin – Human Rights Campaign “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rally, McGehee, who is traveling with Lt. Dan Choi, asked Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese if Choi could speak at the rally and he rebuffed her, telling her it was Kathy Griffin’s rally.

Robin McGehee was also arrested. When Dan and Jim were put into the police van, the crowd apparently cheered a lot! They must be in jail now. Don’t drop the soa– oh wait nm

You can get the entire story at Queerty. Americablog and Towleroad also have solid coverage of the event.

As you know if you’ve been at Autostraddle for a while, we’ve been following Dan since pretty much Day One, because he was on our girlfriend’s teevee show (Rachel Maddow), and it’s pretty interesting to see how he has evolved as a human being and an activist. And he’s only 28, y’all!

When we met him in May, he was charming and friendly; shaking hands with anti-gay protesters and telling them Jesus loved them, making out with his boyfriend & laughing. At the National Equality March in October, he was decidedly angrier– and rightfully so! The naive optimism that perhaps we all felt had clearly left the building, and the New Dan Choi was ready to kick ass and take names. That’s what it feels like, after all, to have to fight so hard for something that seems just so obviously the way things should already be.

That day he took the stage with duct tape over his mouth and the next time he saw us was at a Task Force dinner in Miami, when he asked Brooke (our COO) if he “seemed angrier now.” Because he felt angrier.

And rightfully so.

Dan did get his job back in February and was reportedly back on active duty. But he could not ignore his people!

Could this get Choi kicked out of the military? According to our friend in the military (we have been instructed to take this dude’s word with a big chunk o’salt idk), “depends on the severity of the crime. could be punished by a rank reduction or brig time or pay w/holding. could be discharged. if you’re in the military, you technically can’t be part of a group protest, especially against the government.” The answer could be on this webpage, which is complicated.

What’s particularly incredible about this is that the call for more extreme action and civil disobedience has been almost directly contradicted by the actions of the HRC, who prefer more conservative and polite methods of political resistance. Obviously they didn’t know what Dan had in store… but did any of us?

Whenever radical action is criticized, I think back to the piece Vicki wrote for Autostraddle about her experience as a Lesbian Avenger in the 90’s:

As I’ve gotten older and had kids, I’m a bit more conservative than I was then, but I still appreciate the efforts of radical groups — we need both ends of the spectrum and the efforts of radical groups pave the way for more conservative groups.

Ultimately, we need more than the HRC as our community’s voice, and we need the radical groups out there to agitate people and hold the more conservative elements accountable. We’ve gotten tentative and the radical edge will challenge our nice & reasonable behavior and our politics to propel us forward.

What do you think? Is civil disobedience the way to go? (ETA: A commenter pointed out – Please don’t let the debate be what kind of action we need, we need them all..let the debate be which of these actions am “I” going to take? — and we agree completely with that on all counts.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2817 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. I am so honored to have Choi as a part of our community. So many people have been afraid to make noise and bring this issue to the attention of people everywhere. That is why its been so easy for the government to shove us aside and make fruitless promises. Dan Choi is a leader and I think that his act of civil disobedience should be applauded. Fuck research, DADT repeal needs no research when people like Choi are losing time.

  2. Civil disobedience is the way to go! Gandhi did it for the freedom of my country, India. We queers will have to do it for our civil rights. Lt. Dan Choi and Robin McGeehee of GetEqual (who was arrested first for helping Choi with the chaining) are both brave people. I applaud them for refusing to “be patient” and for actually taking some real action. HRC ought to grow a fucking spine like these people.

    • I think by doing it at a celeb-headed HRC rally/event they are intentionally demonstrating the difference between civil disobedience and playing nice — we’ll see how it plays out. I think it’s pretty awesome, obviously.

  3. This reminds me of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War in DC back in the 60s when people like Norman Mailer got themselves arrested in order to bring more attention to the protests. If it’s to get more visibility then it might be a good strategy, however, the downside is that people – even those who want to repeal DADT – tend to respond badly to more “drastic” measures like civil disobedience. Personally, I admire what he did, but not sure it’s going to have a positive effect on the cause. Guess time will tell.

  4. You cannot make changes for equality and fairness by asking nicely. People don’t like to give up their privileges–even when it’s the right thing to do–and they won’t until they don’t really have a choice.

    If I weren’t responsible for a class of Kindergartners, I’d be there chaining myself right next to Dan. If this shit is still not fixed by the summer though…

  5. Yeah, Kathy gave a speech, but her planned rally gave Dan a platform from which he could launch his action. I think we need all kinds of action..we need HRC behind the scenes, doing the politicking, Kathy in front of the camera drawing the mainstream to our causes and Dan and people like him willing and able to do the radical in-your-face protesting that makes people gasp.

    It is highly likely that Dan’s actions could ultimately lead to his discharge for reasons other than DADT, if my memory serves me he has violated several portions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which governs conduct while in the military. People seem to forget that you give up many liberties that the civilian world has when you take the oath to serve.

    Please don’t let the debate be what kind of action we need, we need them all..let the debate be which of these actions am “I” going to take?

  6. I think Lt Dan Choi is an example of what happens when someone takes a brave, principled, civil stand on an issue and is constantly disappointed in the response he gets from government.

    He’s a real hero, and I admire him tremendously. He’s clearly frustrated and angry, but at the same time, he’s trying to do something about the issue.

  7. Lt. Choi 1) makes me really, really excited 2) Makes me feel like I should do something for the cause(s). Now.
    But as much as I find what he did heroic, I don’t think the president/the government is going to do anything about it until Choi hits closer to home – like chaining himself to the Obamas’ bedposts or something. But here’s to hoping!

    • I read the lesbian avengers article and I am blown away.

      For people like me, that struggle to put one foot in front of the other, it’s people like you, that actually do stuff, that make me want to keep walking.

  8. i’m scared for dan choi because i don’t want him to do something that gets him jailed for a long time or ruins his reputation. i think he’s been a really good leader in the fight against dadt and i don’t want to see him taken down because he does something stupid.

  9. I love Dan Choi and I love that you guys have been following him for as long as you have!

    Also, I agree with everything DeeG said as well.. so no need to repeat it. :)

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