At an LGBT pride month reception held at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama was interrupted by an audience member protesting the detention and deportation of gay, lesbian and transgender immigrants.
It wasn’t necessarily the interruption itself, however, that caught headlines worldwide – it was the president’s terse shutdown of the protester as well as her swift removal from the White House.
The woman has been identified as Jennicet Gutiérrez by GetEQUAL, the activist group for which she acted as a representative in her demonstration.
Gutiérrez – an undocumented immigrant – is a founding member of FAMILIA TQLM, which was “established to advocate for LGBTQ immigrants often excluded in the immigration debate,” according to a statement obtained by #Not1More.
However, Gutiérrez was not just acting on behalf of herself or the organizations which are now lauding her as a hero for their cause – she was also acting on behalf of “seventy-five transgender detainees [who are] still being exposed to assault and abuse in [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” the statement reads.
“The White House gets to make the decision whether it keeps us safe,” Gutiérrez explained in the statement. “There is no pride in how LGBTQ and transgender immigrants are treated in this country. If the President wants to celebrate with us, he should release the LGBT immigrants locked up in detention centers immediately.”
After she was escorted from the White House, Gutiérrez said she was “outraged at the lack of leadership that Obama demonstrated,” she said in another statement released by GetEQUAL. “He had no concern for the way that LGBTQ detainees are suffering. As a trans woman, the misgendering and the physical and sexual abuse – these are serious crimes that we face in detention centers.
“How can that be ignored?” she asked. “It’s heartbreaking to see the LGBTQ community I am part of turning their back on me, and the LGBTQ people in detention centers: how can they tolerate that kind of abuse?”
Gutiérrez’s Twitter account is almost entirely devoted to her work as an LGBTQ advocate. “My existence is my resistance!” she captioned a photo of herself waving a transgender flag.
Though she has not Tweeted since being escorted out of the White House, GetEQUAL is standing by Gutiérrez’s actions on their own account, re-Tweeting comments from Gutiérrez’s many supporters.
Why Was Jennicet Gutiérrez Escorted from the White House?
Though Gutiérrez’s cause has since been made clear, her methods are what have been called into question after her continually interrupting the president mid-speech.
“Over the years, we’ve gathered to celebrate Pride Month, and I ve told you that I’m so hopeful about what we can accomplish. I’ve told you that the civil rights of LGBT Americans is–” began Obama on Wednesday, before being cut off by Gutiérrez shouting his name.
“Yes, hold on a second,” he told her, but she was not swayed – she interrupted him four more times before he told her: “Listen, you’re in my house. You don’t – come on. It’s not – you know what, it’s not respectful when you get invited to somebody you’re not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this.”
Gutiérrez was then booed by the audience in attendance, after which Obama asked his security to remove her. “You can either stay and be quiet, or we’ll have to take you out. All right, can we have this person removed, please?” Only as she was leaving was her message heard: “No more deportations!”