Kirven, Robinson, Reed participate in sit-ins in D.C., San Francisco
offices of House Speaker Pelosi
Two Dallas activists were arrested and a third participated in actions in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington and San Francisco offices on Thursday, March 18.
Chastity Kirven and Michael Robinson were arrested for disorderly conduct. Mark Reed attended the D.C. protest and bailed Kirven and three others out of jail.
"This is our lunch counter," Kirven said later, referring to the sit-ins of the civil rights movement.
As part of the new LGBT direct action group Get Equal, Kirven and Reed were among eight people scheduled to meet with Pelosi staffers in D.C. about moving the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a vote on the House floor.
Kirven said the group entered Pelosi’s office hoping to leave with a commitment.
When President Obama spoke to the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington D.C. in October he said, ‘Hold me accountable,’" Kirven said.
When Pelosi’s representatives made no promises, four members of the group refused to leave. The meeting began at 4 p.m. Capitol police arrested the four women who refused to leave at about 8 p.m. They have come to be known as the ENDA Four.
Reed, who was among the group of eight but not among those arrested, bailed the ENDA Four out of jail around 11 p.m.
They have a hearing on the federal misdemeanor charges on April 6. Kirven said the penalty, if convicted, is up to six months in jail.
In San Francisco, Michael Robinson, a third member of Get Equal from Dallas, was also arrested.
"We tried to coordinate events," Robinson said.
The meeting in Pelosi’s San Francisco office was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time, 30 minutes after the Washington meeting began.
Robinson said the group made it through security but by the time they reached Pelosi’s office, aides had heard about what was going on in D.C., and the activists were not allowed past the lobby.
And, Robinson said, that is where they staged their protest. Eight people began the sit-in.
When police arrived, the protesters were read their rights and given the opportunity to leave. Six remained and were arrested. When police asked who wanted to be cuffed first, Robinson volunteered and was escorted out of the building.
When the six were downstairs, police received a call from the office asking them not to take the group downtown for booking, but just to issue a citation with a $125 fine.
However, after returning to Dallas, Robinson was told he would have to return to San Francisco in April and appear in court.
The three Dallas activists followed different paths to Get Equal.
Reed was raised the son of a Southern Baptist preacher, which he described as a "tough experience growing up gay."
He became an activist about two years ago when he participated in a demonstration against a sermon entitled, "Gay is not OK" at First Baptist Church of Dallas.
Last year Reed served on the executive board for the National Equality March.
Robinson became an activist after he witnessed the near-murder of Jimmy Lee Dean in a hate-related assault in Oak Lawn in 2008. He called his participation in the San Francisco sit-in "liberating."
Kirven describes herself as a lifelong activist. Before the action in Pelosi’s D.C. office she was outside the White House participating in Lt. Dan Choi’s protest of "Don’t ask, don’t tell," also choreographed by GetEqual.
Choi, who served in Iraq and is being discharged under DADT, and Jim Pietrangelo, who has already been discharged, were arrested after handcuffing themselves to the fence around the White House.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 26, 2010.