Petards, Park Police and gays in the military
"The Park Police screwed up," David Schlosser, the public information officer of the U.S. Park Police, said as he immediately threw himself on his sword after I asked, "What happened yesterday?" What happened was that six protesters urging President Obama to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military chained themselves to the White House fence and were arrested. What also happened was that reporters were shooed away from the scene, blocked from covering the story. A big mistake that has caused the White House some grief with the media and with the gay community.
Schlosser wanted to make it clear that the White House played no role in the actions of what he called "an inexperienced" and overly "enthusiastic officer" of the Park Police. "This is entirely our screw up," he said as he noted that the Secret Service and the White House bore no responsibility for the deviation from past practice. According to Schlosser, usually when someone gets arrested for something around the White House, the Park Police clear Pennsylvania Avenue and use yellow caution tape to ensure that folks don't step off the curb. They could shut down all of Lafayette Park if they wanted to. Still, Schlosser told me, reporters should have been allowed to stand right at the caution tape so that they could do their jobs. And that didn't happen yesterday.
"It really sucks when we drop the ball," Schlosser told me. "We have to explain ourselves. We owe it to the public. We owe it to the press. And we owe it to the White House." Such honesty and willingness to accept full responsibility left me speechless.
Now, allow me one small gripe about yesterday's action. I want repeal of don't ask don't tell as much as the six veterans who put their bodies where their mouths were by getting arrested. But I have two suggestions for them for next time -- because there will be one. First, change the scene of action from the White House to the Capitol. Repeal of don't ask don't tell requires congressional action. And nothing says "Listen to me!" like civil disobedience in the office of the Speaker or the Senate Majority Leader. Second, if they insist on the White House as a venue, they should at least ensure that Obama is on the premises. He was en route back to Washington aboard Air Force One when the DADT Six were carted away.
| April 21, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: jonathan capehart
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