Dallas activist Mark Reed says he was ready to go to jail today outside the White House

Mark Reed
Mark Reed in a screen grab from CNN.

Mark Reed says was prepared to go to jail today alongside gay Army Lt. Dan Choi and the five LGBT veterans who chained themselves to the White House fence to demand an immediate repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Reed, a Dallas business owner and an activist with GetEQUAL, said his assignment was to make sure the six were successful in linking their second hand to the fence after they walked up to it with handcuffs around one.

“If they gave me the signal I would go over there and help them put the second one on,” Reed said by phone from D.C. this afternoon. “That’s how [GetEQUAL co-founder] Robin [McGehee] got arrested when she assisted Dan [Choi] putting his handcuffs on the last time we were here. So I was in an arrestable position. … I’ve been mentally preparing myself for that. I was totally cool today if that was going to happen. I had phone numbers written on my arm. What’s great is that you know everyone here has got your back. There’s a whole chain in place.”

As it turned out, Reed wasn’t needed to assist with the handcuffs, so instead he helped hold up a sign in front of his shackled comrades until being told to move by police, as seen in the CNN video below.

“As we continued to get pushed out away from them, we continued to hold the sign in front of them, so that people clearly understood when they looked across the street, why they were handcuffed to the fence,” Reed said. “[White House Press Secretary] Robert Gibbs was actually walking through Lafayette Park, and one of the guys spotted him, so there was a whole group of people yelling at him. It was really pretty wild.”

Reed said he was shooting photographs and video the first time Lt. Choi chained himself to the fence in March.

“This one I was a more active participant, and it was really an exhilirating experience, to be able to stand with five brave veterans and Dan Choi, as they chained themselves to the fence, and to continue to put more pressure on Obama, to not study this thing [DADT] for another year,” Reed said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, it could be several years before we could actually have it repealed. I think visually seeing six soldiers, one from each military division, being chained to the fence, and Dan coming back a second time, I think sends a powerful message.”

Reed said he and his partner, Dante Walkup, arrived in D.C. at 5 a.m. this morning, before a planning meeting at 9 a.m. and then the action at noon.

Though very tired, Reed said he’s looking forward to a meeting tonight where GetEQUAL leaders will discuss the possibility of another action in the next few days.

Reed said the six who were arrested today will have to spend the night in jail. He plans to attend their arraignment tomorrow.

Reed didn’t become an activist until a few years ago, when he attended a protest outside First Baptist Church of Dallas. From there he became one of the lead organizers for last year’s National Equality March.

Reed is one of several activists from Dallas who’ve been involved with GetEQUAL. He said Chastity Kirven, who was arrested during a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month, was on her way from Dallas to D.C. to join him tonight.

“I’m excited to be involved in this part of our movement, because I think we’re on the cusp of good things,” Reed said. “Civil disobedience was a major part of the civil rights movement, so we’ve done a lot of learning from tactics and strategies that they used.

“The clock’s ticking, and midterms [elections] are around the corner, and if we lose a lot of seats, we could be waiting several years to get back in the position we’re in now.”

MORE VIDEO FROM THE PROTEST AFTER THE JUMP:

—  John Wright

Lt. Dan Choi speaks at Texas A&M

Get Equal member Lt. Dan Choi spoke at Texas A&M on April 8. In this video, he talks about the consequences of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Choi was arrested outside the White House in March after being handcuffed to the fence. That same day, the ENDA 4 were arrested in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The ENDA 4 case was settled last week with each getting six months probation. Choi’s trial is set for April 26.

—  David Taffet