Yesterday, after six discharged veterans, Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Airman Victor Price, handcuffed themselves to the White House front fence, U.S. Park Police forced the public and the media to leave Lafayette Park, which takes up about an acre in front of the executive offices and residences.
The six chained themselves in protest against the don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding homosexuals serving in the U.S. military, which places a prohibition on both inquiring of a servicemember’s sexual orientation and the explanation by a servicemember of their non-heterosexual orientation.
Barely more than a month ago, the White House’ front gate has played host to protests where some disparaged the president as a mass murderer, and yet the public and the media did not have to leave the park. Police around the White House barred protesters, but not the general public, from the sidewalk in front of the White House. The restriction was put in place after dissident veterans of the Iraq War attempted to put down a mud stencil with their group’s logo on it. Initially citing no code for their stopping the group’s non-staining mark, they would eventually cite a violation of anti-graffiti statute D.C. Code § 22-3312.01. The police claimed that they were banning all people from the gate, while very clearly they were not banning tourists from the most anterior, photo-op zone.
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