Lt. Dan Choi led thirteen protesters who demonstrated on the White House lawn yesterday by chaining themselves to the White House fence. The protesters included several veterans and former servicemen, including Choi himself, along with a handful of civilian activists, and was organized to mark the start of Congress’ lame-duck session, which is generally believed to be the last chance for DADT opponents to obtain a repeal.
The thirteen protesters were protesting “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, and the Obama Administration’s failure, thus far, to repeal the policy that prevents military servicemen from serving openly. Lt. Choi led the protesters in chants of “Barack Obama… Silent Homophobia” and “I am somebody! I deserve full equality!”
After several hours of demonstrating, all thirteen activists were arrested.
This makes the fourth (if I’ve counted right) time that Lt. Choi has chained himself to the White House fence in order to protest DADT. Frankly, I’m worried that the tactic is becoming commonplace. Demonstrations such as the one that took place yesterday rely upon a certain amount of “shock value” in order to get media outlets to cover the story, thereby persuading public goodwill to side with you. I’ve been a strong supporter of Lt. Choi and his anti-DADT struggle for nearly a year, but lately I’ve been concerned that Lt. Choi is letting himself be cast in the media as a “professional activist”, and I’m worried that the continued reliance on demonstrations such as this one will soon cause Lt. Choi to lose his relevance. With respect, it may be time to investigate other strategies of public civil disobedience, so that the fight against DADT can continue to have maximal impact.
Lt. Choi also took the time yesterday to distance himself from KnightsOut and OutServe. Choi founded the former group — a support network for LGBTQ servicemen – and it was a little surprising to me that he repudiated the group on his Twitter feed. It turns out that KnightsOut and OutServe released statements that seemed non-committal about the removal of language that would repeal DADT from the latest Defense spending bill. Their reasons for taking this stance are unclear to me, given their fervent anti-DADT stance in the past, but it seems that for this reason, Choi has quit the group and joined other LGBTQ organizations in condemning them. KnightsOut and OutServe have since clarified that they meant that they were in support of the Defense spending bill without DADT’s repeal in it, but did not support its removal. But, it may have been better for these groups to have simply stayed mum on the issue: one simply cannot claim to be against DADT, while simultaneously backing a bill wherein a repeal of DADT is actively removed.