Secret White House Meeting Meant to Enforce, Crack Down on Progressive Organizations and Messaging
Washington, DC. – This evening, seven of the original 13 LGBT veterans and advocates who were arrested yesterday at the White House fence, stood outside of the Capital Hilton (1001 16th Street NW) in Washington, DC to protest the White House’s “Common Purpose” meeting, a mostly secret, low-profile gathering of White House officials and institutional, progressive organizations aimed at controlling the agenda and messaging around those issues, which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. The invite-only meeting, first launched back in 2009 by White House Chief of Staff Rahmn Emanuel, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and others, has been previously criticized by liberal, progressive bloggers and advocates for its attempt to shut-down any resistance to the White House’s strategy by instilling fear of retribution amongst the organizations invited.
Video of this evening’s Common Purpose meeting protest will be available shortly at: www.youtube.com/getequal
The group of seven LGBT veterans and advocates stood outside the Capitol Hilton tonight in the rain, greeting attendees with a simple, direct message: “There’s No Common Purpose Without Equality.” Amongst the list of attendees to the Common Purpose meeting tonight were: David Smith, VP of the Human Rights Campaign and Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - two of the nation’s largest LGBT organizations; and officials from the Center for American Progress (CAP), including Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President for External Affairs, who has claimed credit for drafting the compromise legislation and strategy on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, putting in grave danger the chances of repeal happening this year – despite numerous promises to the contrary.
David Smith, Vice President of Policy and Strategy for the Human Rights Campaign, Winnie Stachelberg, Sr. VP for External Affairs for CAP; Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, were greeted tonight by the protestors and asked to stand with the LGBT community and not attend the meeting. All three of them chose instead to cross the protest line and enter into the hotel. Smith refused saying, “I’m running late.”
Also, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and White House Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement Brian Bond were also in attendance and greeted tonight by protestors who chanted “What’s Your Plan?” and “Tell Obama to Keep His Promise!”
“We stand outside in the rain tonight because we have a simple message to deliver to the White House and those attending this meeting, ‘there is no common purpose without equality’,” said LGBT veteran Evelyn Thomas, twice arrested at the White House fence for protesting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and a former Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. “From the White House fence to the steps of the U.S. Capitol or outside the entrance of the hotel holding your secret, low-profile meeting, we are prepared to go anywhere, at any time of day, until you deliver on your promise of equality for all Americans.”
The group of LGBT veterans and advocates held signs at tonight’s protest reading:
- There’s No Common Purpose Without Equality;
- Messina DADT “This Year”?;
- What’s the Plan?(referring to the recent answer President Obama gave to LGBT blogger, Joe Sudbay, that he had a plan to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the lame-duck session)
- Human Rights Campaign Stand With Us!
- DADT C.A.P. Compromise – What Did It Get Us, Winnie?
Yesterday afternoon, three generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans and advocates – including the seven protesting the “Common Purpose” meeting tonight -- went to the White House fenceto call for the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama to make good on their promises to secure the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the abbreviated, lame-duck session of Congress that started on the same day. Photos and video of the White House fence protest and arrests can be viewed at: www.flickr.com/photos/getequalandwww.youtube.com/getequal.
The seven LGBT veterans and advocates participating in this evening’s “Common Purpose” meeting protest outside tonight include:
- Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas – both were arrested back in April during the GetEQUAL“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act of civil disobedience at the White House fence demanding President Obama show leadership on repeal;
- Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL and a lesbian mother of two who has been arrested three times and organized dozens of actions in an effort to gain equality.
- Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Elzie was also the first soldier to be discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to fight his discharge and win – resulting in his service as a Marine for four years as an openly gay man.
- U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal AdvocateRob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
- Scott Wooledge a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written extensively on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam's House Blend.
- Dan Fotou,GetEQUAL’s action strategist and one of the group of 13 arrested at the White House yesterday.
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit: http://www.getequal.org. You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube athttp://www.youtube.com/getequal.
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