In March, U.S. Magistrate John M. Facciola raised concerns about the “rarely invoked” federal charges that the government is pursuing against Dan Choi for protesting in front of the White House.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George said it was because Choi has been arrested for protesting in front of the White House multiple times.

But Dan has only been arrested three times for protesting there; numerous people have been arrested many more times than he has.

People are arrested in front of the White House, but the cases are routinely handled in local Superior Court:

  • July 27 2011: Luis Guitierrez and ten others arrested for protesting mass undocumented immigrant deportations. “Gutierrez [paid] his $100 fine and was released by the police.”
  • July 11: 4 people were arrested after 100 people delivered 51 cardboard coffins to the White House to protest the Columbia Free Trade Agreement.
  • June 25: 12 DC residents arrested for demonstrating on behalf of DC voting rights, bringing the total to 73 since April.
  • April 19: 41 protesters including DC Mayor Vincent Gray arrested for demonstrating for DC voting rights. All were charged with unlawful assembly and given a $50 fine.
  • March 19 – Daniel Ellsberg is one of 113 people arrested in front of the White House for protesting the abuse of Bradley Manning by Quantico brig commander.
  • January 18 2011: Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney was arrested for protesting human rights abuses of the Chinese government
  • December 17 2010 – 135 arrested for protesting the war.
  • June 1 2010: Actress Q’orianka Kilcher, who starred as Pocahontas in the 2005 film “The New World,” was arrested for chaining herself to the White House fence to protest the President’s meeting between Alan Garzia Perez. Hazmat teams were called in after her mother poured a black substance over her to simulate oil, which turned out to be paint. She was was charged with disorderly conduct and her mother was charged with destruction of government property. They were arraigned in D.C. Superior Court, released and “ordered to stay away from the White House.”
  • September 2010: James Hansen and 100 others arrested for protesting mountaintop removal.
  • May 2010 – Luis Guiterrez arrested for protesting to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
  • March 20 2010: Cindy Sheehan arrested in front of White House.
  • October 5 2009: Cindy Sheehan and 60 others arrested for protesting against the war in Afghanistan.
  • November 9 2006: Cindy Sheehan arrested after leading 50 protesters to the White House gates to deliver anti-war petitions.
  • October 26 2005: Cindy Sheehan and 28 others arrested in a sit-in at the White House.
  • September 26 2005: 370 people including Cindy Sheehan were arrested for protesting against the war in Iraq. They were “charged with demonstrating without a permit, a misdemeanor that carries a $50 fine and — like a traffic ticket — can be paid by mail or challenged later in court” said Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear.

I asked several  activists how many times they had been arrested for protesting at the White House.

Eve Tetaz, a retired D.C. public-school teacher and a peace and justice activist, says:

I am among hundreds who have been arrested multiple times in front of the WH. I’ve spent time in jail, been under probation and have rarely paid a fine except when I felt it was the strategic thing to do.

Daniel Ellsberg has been arrested over 80 times, and says numerous times in front of the White House:

Of course, there was the December bust there, 2010. Then I got arrested with Dick Gregory protesting the start of the Gulf War bombing, 1991. (He was arrested for praying–i.e., kneeling, not walking–and holding up a sign; so I picked up the sign and knelt, and got arrested; spent the night in a cell with him, which was nice). And again in front of the White House, with a lot of others, when the ground attack began, a few weeks later. I was arrested in front of the fence protesting torture (Sister Dianna Ortiz, who was tortured in Guatemala, was doing a silent hunger strike in Lafayette Park while we were in the street; Jennifer Harbury–whose husband was tortured to death in Guatemala and who did a fast in front of the White House to get the information on him released– was arrested with me, her first arrest). There’s four times at the fence; I would say there were more. Oh yeah, there was another Bradley Manning arrest at the White House (no snow this time: that’s the one you were at!) the day before our action at Quantico: that’s five.

Dan was also arrested in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House once, and on a street a block away from the White House at the start of Shock and Awe in March of 2003, for a total of seven times at White House protests.

News reports indicate that Cindy Sheehan has been arrested at least five times. David Swanson says he has been arrested “3 or 4 times” at least.   Col. Anne Wright says she has been arrested five times.  Eva Tetaz says she has been arrested “10 or 11 times, I don’t keep count.”

So why is the Department of Justice really singling Dan Choi out, when I was able to find 5 people in one morning who had been arrested many more times for protesting in front of the White House than he had?

Hard to know the truth. According to Marc Ambinder, the President “gets angry every time he’s heckled by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ protesters. GetEqual has heckled him repeatedly at his fundraising events, and embarrassed him at an Alonzo Morning fundraiser.  So it may just be a personal vendetta.

But the irony is, Obama is heavily touting the passage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with gay donors who have taken the place of many of his bundlers who did not return from the 2008 campaign.

It’s hard to see how anyone can be thanking the President for DADT’s passage, however, and then sit by idly while one of the people who put himself on the line to get it passed is being persecuted by the federal government. The Department of Defense is trying to collect $3000 they say Dan owes them because he did not complete his enlistment after he was thrown out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and recently turned his account over to a collection agency.

Dan and his attorney, Yetta Kurland, will be joining us for an FDL community conference call on August 17 to talk about the upcoming trial. Please sign up and join us on the call, and let Dan know that you are watching what’s happening to him and that you’ll be there to support him throughout.

If we stand by while the government persecutes people who put themselves on the line and exercise freedom of speech to defend the principles we believe in, there won’t be many people willing to do it any more. And that, I imagine, is the point.