Police closed Lafayette Park today to public and press during a public protest of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, according to video shot on the scene. A handful of gay servicemembers chained themselves to the White House fence, and were removed and arrested, but the protest didn't seem to be causing any more danger than the average rowdy liberal protest of the Bush vs. Sheehan years.
Nonetheless, press corps members were shooed away from the White House by police who insisted the park was "closed." Lafayette Park is a time-honored protest locale for many causes, and was home to all wacky flavors of political theater during the Bush years. While police are on hand to keep things under control, press and public alike are generally allowed to wander the park at will, gawking and reporting as they please.
Ben Smith wrote, "people who have covered the White House for years tell me that's an extremely unusual thing to do in an area that regularly features protests."
This can't help coming on the heels of the White House Correspondents Association sit-down with Gibbs about the White House's restrictions on press. The president has been facing increased heat for not being aggressive enough in the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This video ought to bring more attention to a protest that might otherwise have gone relatively unremarked upon.
Here's video of the encounter.