Earlier today, Lt. Dan Choi and 5 fellow gay servicemembers handcuffed themselves to the fence on the north side of the White House to protest the slow pace of the “Don’t ask/Don’t tell” repeal. This is the second time that Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo have used the cuff protest, the first time for the others. The protest follows President Obama‘s engagement of LGBT rights protesters at a fundraiser last night.
In a disturbing wrinkle, the police closed off the scene to the press for a time, and Mediaite has confirmed that this included White House reporters. (h/t Kerry Eleveld)
Eventually, the police allowed reporters back on the scene. When CBS News’ Mark Knoller saw that the police had pushed the press back, he interceded. Knoller tells Mediaite:
No big deal. It seemed ridiculous to me that credentialed press was held half-way deep in Lafayette Park for a peaceful event at the WH fenceline. So I pointed out my concern to a US Park Police officer, and after a time, he phoned someone, likely his superior, and then escorted credentialed press to the fenceline for better coverage of the protest and arrests.
At first the officer refused, saying it was US Park Police procedure. I asked him to contact his superior so I might deliver my objection higher up the chain of the command. And within a few minutes, after he made a cell phone call, he escorted credential press right to the fenceline. I thanked the officer for his effort on our behalf.
I checked with Park Police Officer Terry Felt, and he said that by the time he was on the scene, a press area had been set up, and that it was not procedure to push the press back like that. He was unaware that it had happened.
The protest, organized by GetEQUAL, was intended to pressure the President into including the DADT repeal in this year’s Defense Authorization Bill. While the President promised to end DADT during this year’s State of the Union address, the effort has been stalled, as it has been since Choi’s story first shined a light on this issue last spring.
Update: Politico has posted the video with the headline “Most transparent White House ever…”
It should be noted that I called the Secret Service Uniformed Division, and they confirmed that they had nothing to do with this action, that Park Police are responsible for the area in question. This was a transparency issue, to be sure, but not with the White House.
Video Credit; AMERICAblog
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