I just spoke to Dan Fotou, who was among the protesters kicked out of the Obama fund-raiser this evening. An activist with the group GetEQUAL, he says his shouts (and others) were the ones that stopped President Obama’s speech.
Obama was just starting remarks about Barbara Boxer when Fotou says he shouted, “Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”
The president, he said, “looked right at” him, as Fotou says he was standing about 30 feet away.
Obama said, “We are going to do that. Hey, hold on a second, hold on a second. We are going to do that.”
Then the crowd started chanting, “Yes we can!”
Obama said, according to the transcript, “No, no, no, no, listen. What the young man was talking about was we need to — we need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which I agree with and which we have begun to do. (Applause.) But let me say this: When you’ve got an ally like Barbara Boxer and you’ve got an ally like me who are standing for the same thing, then you don’t know exactly why you’ve got to holler, because we already hear you, all right? (Applause.) I mean, it would have made more sense to holler that at the people who oppose it.”
Fotou says guards took him aside and warned him, but he was allowed to return on the promise that he wouldn’t interrupt the speech. But a fellow activist, Zoe Nicholson Laura Kanter, also started shouting.
A bit exasperated, Obama said, “I’m sorry, do you want to come up here? (Applause.) You know, the — all right, because can I just say, once again, Barbara and I are supportive of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so I don’t know why you’re hollering.”
Fotou, however, then shouted that the President could put language into a military appropriations bill to repeal the policy.
It was then that he was kicked out of the event.
“What he’s doing to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell isn’t enough,” Fotou, who is 34 and lives in Los Angeles, said in an interview later Monday evening. He says he was upset that Obama has set into motion a survey and study of the military, rather than just repealing the ban on gays in the military. “Why this study to delay the repeal?…We trust him, and we still trust him, to do the right thing.”
“It is about trusting our president to do what he said when we elected him…We can’t be placated any longer.”
Fotou says that he tried to get in the military two years ago, but was turned away after taking the entry exam, and, although he did not tell them, he suspects it was over sexual orientation. He said that he was asked by one military official, “Anything else we need to know?” but did not answer.
He says that others at the fund-raiser swore at him and he even got pushed in an effort to shut him up. He got in the way that everyone else got in, he says, by buying a $250 ticket. But despite what happened, he did praise the event itself, and called India.Arie, the Grammy winning singer who opened for Obama, “lovely.”
Fotou sent an e-mail clarifying what transpired: “Laura Kanter was the first person to speak and then I followed. I’m not sure if you saw the video, but yes, Laura had begun shouting and about a minute after she finished, I started – which is when the President addressed our demand to repeal DADT. Zoe Nicholson, who began shouting about shortly after Laura and I were escorted out the first time was the person that President Obama asked if she’d like to “come up here.” It was a team effort completely.”
Video here and below.