Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo outside the White House.
Two gay soldiers have been arrested outside the White House while protesting the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ban on LGBT personnel in the US military.
Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the fence around the White House after reportedly “crashing” a rally against the ban held by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and hosted by comedienne Kathy Griffin.
Iraq war veteran Choi – who is facing expulsion from the military because of his sexuality – called on the around 1000 participants to follow him to the White House where he and Pietrangelo, who was discharged in 2004, staged their own protest.
Their actions were not part of the HRC’s plan for the rally. The confusion over the day’s events is said by some commentators to reflect the split in the LGBT community over strategies to oppose the ban.
On its website, the HRC admitted that Choi, who asked at the last minute to speak at the event, was not scheduled to take part in the rally. Following negotiations with HRC head Joe Solmonese and Griffin, he was allowed to take to the stage.
“Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese… and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal,” said the organisation.
“This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.”
The rally and protest took place during the ongoing Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The hearings were initiated after President Obama called for the ban to be repealed.
According to CNN, Choi and Pietrangelo were charged with failure to obey a lawful order after refusing to remove the handcuffs and would spend the night in jail.