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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bravery Of The "GetEQUAL 13"

By David Mixner -

Get Equal1 

A legal drama has been unfolding in a DC that has ramifications far beyond the LGBT community. Last November GetEQUAL staged a protest in front of the White House on behalf of full equality for LGBT American citizens. While passionate in their beliefs there really wasn't anything to distinguish the protest from hundreds of others that had expressed their concerns to their government in front of the White House. Personally I have been arrested there three times- once against the invasion of Cambodia in 1970, once for government's failure on AIDS in 1986 and once against Clinton's DADT policy in 1993.
Like everyone else, I was simply arrested, placed in a cell, mug shot taken, finger-printed and posted a low bond. If you didn't show up for a court date you simply lost your bond. The "GetEQUAL 13" had been arraigned before for similar protests and basically similar procedures took place. Even if you didn't bail yourself out or contest the charges you got a slap on the hand and was released. The non violent civil disobedience always was handled by Park Police and in the local DC courts.
Not this time. The impact of new procedures will have a stifling impact on dissent in America. This time they were arrested by Federal Officers and will be tried in Federal Court . They are charge with "violating the orders of a federal law enforcement officer." The "GetEQUAL 13" could spend up to six months in jail. Having occupied space in prison for various amounts of time but never for six months, I can tell you it is a horror that no one wants to endure. These thirteen brave souls deserve enormous praise, support and money for any legal costs.
Without diminishing the impact of their courage, the case has larger impacts. If from now on people petitioning their government in front of the White House are tried in Federal Court and placed in prison it is no small step to suppressing dissent. During the protests no one practiced violence, nor disrupted traffic or placed any individual in the White House in jeopardy. Their crime was to loudly protest through acts of civil disobedience an unjust policy against millions of Americans.
Federal Magistrate John M. Facciola was in shock that the protesters were even in his courtroom and lectured the prosecution about civil rights, dissent and civil liberties. So far the federal prosecutors have not budged. A date of September 19 has been selected for trial. If the federal prosecutors insist on the current charges, all of the "GetEQUAL 13" will fight back and risk six months in prison.
What is at stake is not only the fate of these brave individuals but free speech, the right to dissent and the right to non-violently petition your government with just grievances. They deserve our support and admiration. Here are the 13 brave individuals:
Robin McGehee
Autumn Sandeen
Evelyn Thomas
Mara Boyd
Dan Choi
Miriam Ben-Shalom
Justin Elzie
Dan Fotou
Rob Smith
Father Geoff Farrow
Scott Wooledge
Michael Bedwell
Ian Finkenbinder
Dan Fotou

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


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