13 DADT protesters in court tomorrow facing more serious charges than standard

On November 15, 2010, thirteen DADT protesters, spanning three generations of activists, handcuffed themselves to the White House fence:

Tomorrow, all 13 will be in court here in DC to begin the legal proceedings. (I knew this because one of them, Scott Wooledge (a.k.a. Clarknt67), will be sleeping on our couch tonight.)

But, via Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post, it’s apparent that the US Attorney’s Office is raising the stakes (and the attention) on this case. That office is pursuing charges that haven’t been used against people engaged in civil disobedience for years. Not sure why the US Attorney decided to push for these charges against this particular group of protesters. Sure raises a lot of questions:

The group — including gay rights leaders, a Catholic priest and eight veterans discharged for breaking the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops — were arrested Nov. 15 and previously declined to plead guilty to violating the orders of a federal law enforcement officer. The charge carries a maximum six-month jail sentence.

It’s the first time since at least 2006 that protesters have faced the charge, according to Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Mark Goldstone, the group’s attorney, said his research suggests it’s the first time prosecutors have ever used the charge against protesters at federal sites anywhere in the District.

“Of all the locations to get arrested at in D.C., one would think that the White House location would be where you’re most likely to get prosecuted,” but prosecutors are more likely to press charges against protesters outside the Capitol or Supreme Court, Goldstone said Thursday.

While not unusual, arresting protesters for chaining themselves to the White House fence is not as common as other First Amendment exercises on federal property in the District, according to the U.S. Park Police. Protesters are more commonly charged with violating regulations pertaining to the area, number of participants, and size of signs used in demonstrations, according to Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman.

Got that? This jacking-up of charges is happening on the watch of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice. US Attorneys are political appointees.

From GetEQUAL’s press release:

“We feel like the prosecution is attempting to make a statement with this case,” said GetEQUAL co-founder and arrestee Robin McGehee. “In our nation’s history, non-violent acts of civil disobedience have often been necessary to achieve equality. Though we’re disappointed that the prosecution has chosen to use creative legal means to prosecute our case, we welcome our day in court to bring attention to the issue of LGBT equality in this country and the victory these actions helped secure.”

“This is a total waste of Government resources. After ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was repealed, the United States Government will now continue to waste government resources to conduct a trial of 13 activists from all over the country, to prove whether or not they disobeyed an order by chaining themselves to the White House fence.” Said Mark Goldstone the group’s attorney. “These activists will go down in the history books as helping to repeal a discriminatory, un-American law. Rather than being prosecuted by the United States Government, the Government should be giving these heroes and heroines medals. They once proudly served their country in uniform and their activism is just another form of service.”


Are they going to do this the next time a Congressman is arrested in front of the White House, too?

Also, GetEQUAL was formed one year ago this week. On March 18, 2010, Lieutenant Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the White House fence while other protesters did a sit-in in the then-Speaker’s office. It marked a new brand of activism — and they haven’t stopped since. There’s a one-year anniversary fundraiser this weekend here in DC. If you’ve been inspired by the work of GetEQUAL, donate here. They do an awful lot without the huge budgets of the DC-based groups. Also, there’s a match underway so the value of your contribution is doubled.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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