CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Activists protesting the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy attempted to deliver 13,500 plastic toy soldiers to the Charlotte office of U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) on Thursday.
After discussions with building security and Myrick staffers, who said the office was too small to accommodate the nine, five-gallon camouflage buckets, two protesters were allowed to deliver a letter and nearly half of the toy soldiers, collected over the last month to represent gay and lesbian service members discharged under the policy since 1994.
The campaign, organized by the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality
(CRANE), targeted Myrick because of her pro-military and strong national security positions. CRANE organizer Matt Comer of Charlotte, who was at the Thursday protest, called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a threat to the country's security and a waste of millions of dollars.
"We want Myrick to reflect on these," said Comer. "She'll know that these represent real American people. She has the power to affect their lives." Many, he said, are her constituents.
The letter delivered to Myrick's office read: "We ask you to join 190 of your House colleagues in co-sponsoring HR 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act," which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. N.C. Democratic Congressmen Mel Watt, Brad Miller and David Price have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
After a Feb. 26 CRANE rally in Charlotte, supported by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign
, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, Myrick released a statement that said: "I support the position held by Gens. George Casey and Norton Schwartz, and believe that the military should finish its study on the impact of repealing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy before any Congressional action is taken."
Casey, the Army chief of staff, and Schwartz, his counterpart in the Air Force, have expressed concerns about gays serving openly in the military and urged further study. President Obama and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called for doing away with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and have the support of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Other North Carolina politicians are also on the list for a delivery of 13,500 toy soldiers each on April 28, when activists from across the state plan to travel to Washington. They include Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, both members of the Armed Services Committee, and Democratic Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre.