WASHINGTON -- Twenty-one months ago, Los Angeles businessman David Mixner introduced about 20 of his fellow wealthy gay activists to a man who'd been a friend of his for 25 years -- Bill Clinton.
At a private home in the Hollywood Hills, Mr. Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, assured the group that if elected president he would stand up for gay rights and pledged to rescind the ban on gays in the military.
Impressed with Mr. Clinton, members of the group, known as Angle, endorsed him for president, encouraged other gays to do fTC the same and subsequently helped raised tens of thousands of dollars for his election.
They cheered when he won election, and partied with the Clintons during the week of the inauguration.
Yesterday, Mr. Mixner and several other disillusioned members of Angle were arrested by rubber-gloved officers with the U.S. Park Police for demonstrating in front of the White House to protest what they see as the president's capitulation on gays in the military.
"Lift the ban!" chanted the well-dressed group of activists. "We won't go back!" They also sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Woody Guthrie's old protest song, "This Land is Your Land," before being handcuffed and escorted to waiting vans by the park police.
Across the street, in Lafayette Park, a crowd of 200 to 300 gay rights activists engaged in more raucous chants, including, "Don't ask, don't tell, Sam Nunn go to hell," in a reference to Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Nunn was a key player in forcing Mr. Clinton to compromise on his campaign pledge -- a compromise that came to be known as "Don't ask, don't tell."
"This is a horrendous policy that requires dramatic action," Mr. Mix
ner said before being led away.
Mr. Mixner and the other protesters were released from a holding facility yesterday afternoon after posting bond.
"Free at Last! Free at Last!" Mr. Mixner said with a laugh from the comfort of his room in the Four Seasons hotel. "It's not my idea of a good time, but it was a pretty amazing to see major donors and Clinton campaign staff arrested just six months after he took office. I think it was a powerful message."
Two dozen people were arrested, including Sky Johnson, deputy Clinton-Gore campaign chief in California in 1992, and Miriam Ben-Shalom, a former Army drill sergeant who has worked to lift the ban.
"We are protesting an injustice which denies gay and lesbian American citizens their full citizenship," Ms. Ben-Shalom said.
Added Angle activist Diane Abbitt: "We are sending a message that we are not going to go away."
Yet that's exactly what White House officials sounded as if they hoped would happen.
Asked for the president's response at the arrest of his old friend, White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said tersely, "The president will have no comment. The president is well aware of Mr. Mixner's position on gays in the military."