Friday, March 2, 2012

Lt. Dan Choi to Visit Occupy Fairbanks Saturday

One of the most prominent and persistent opponents of the American military policy known as Don't Ask - Don't Tell was West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran, Army Lt. Dan Choi.  Choi has become a well-know civil rights activist, both in the USA and abroad.  He was arrested in Moscow last year, while protesting anti-LBGT government policies.  Choi has also been seriously involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement and its relations with the LBGT community. 

As part of a two-week tour of active Occupy encampments around the country, Lt. Choi will be visiting Occupy Fairbanks on Saturday:
Occupy Fairbanks survived the harsh Alaska winter and won a national contest hosted by Occupy Supply, which will bring renowned military LGBT rights activist Lt. Dan Choi to Fairbanks. On Jan. 29, CNN circulated a video of a Fairbanks Occupier on its website. Occupy Supply provided CNN with the video, which shows 24-year-old linguistics student Forrest Andresen protesting by hold two signs that read “STOP BUYING IT” and “IN CAPITALIST AMERICA, BANK ROBS YOU!” outside of UAF in minus 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sleeping outside and protesting while wearing only underwear and boots in cold weather is finally paying off for protestors. Occupy Fairbanks won $5,000 Command Post tents for their “outstanding community activism,” according to the Firedoglake blog founder Jane Hamsher.  They are among four other tent winners in New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Flint, Mich. that Occupy Supply announced on Feb. 6.

More than 150 occupations submitted writings and open voting in rounds. eliminated most the competition. Some of the occupations selected for tents were shut down and will be receiving laptops instead of tents to inspire them to continue. Other prizes won by occupations included laptops and $100 to spend at the Occupy Supply store.

Choi will present the tents to the protesters and will hold a tent-raising ceremony at each winner’s location to show his support and celebrate their hard work in March.  He is a West Point graduate who handcuffed himself to the White House fence to protest the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy after he got discharged from the Army for admitting he was gay on national TV.

Occupy Fairbanks members are excited to have Choi representing them because they think he will draw a crowd, they said. They see a veteran putting up a tent for their organization in the Veteran’s Memorial Park as meaningful and symbolic. They are also grateful for the new, bigger tent, they said.
David Leslie, a 23-year-old journalism student and Occupy Fairbanks activist, sees Choi as a rallying point for the military and LGBT. “Because he’s a gay veteran and has been in war, he’s gonna bring out the best in both,” he said.
Here's a short bio of Dan, from Bent Alaska:
Lt. Dan Choi (born February 22, 1981) is a West Point graduate, Iraq War veteran, and Arabic linguist. He was the nation’s leading activist for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

Choi was born in Orange County, California, and raised in an evangelical Korean-American household. His father is a Baptist minister; his mother is a nurse. Inspired by the film “Saving Private Ryan”, Choi decided to attend West Point.

After graduating from West Point with degrees in Arabic linguistics and environmental engineering, Choi served as an Army infantry officer in Iraq. In 2008, he transferred from active duty to the Army National Guard. That same year, Choi and a group of West Point alumni founded Knights Out, an organization supporting the rights of LGBT soldiers.

In 2009, Choi appeared on the “The Rachel Maddow Show” and said something that would change his life forever: “I am gay.” Within a month, the U.S. Army notified him that he was being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

When he received his discharge papers, Choi knew he had to fight back. He wrote an open letter asking President Obama to repeal the policy and reinstate him, calling his discharge “a slap in the face.”

Choi sent his West Point graduation ring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It was a reminder to the senator of a promise he made to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

Choi became the leading activist and national spokesman for the repeal of DADT. His media savvy drew attention to the issue. In 2010, he was arrested three times for handcuffing himself to the White House fence during protests.

Later in 2010, Choi was invited to the White House to witness President Obama signing the bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law. Afterward, Senator Reid invited Choi to his office, where he returned Choi’s West Point ring.

“The next time I get a ring from a man,” Choi responded, “I expect it to be for full, equal American marriage.”
 More on Dan Choi's Fairbanks schedule when I can get the information.

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