Wednesday, April 26, 2006
SHAKING IN THEIR BOOTS
It will come as no surprise to anyone that arrests were made at the West Point Military Academy when Equality Riders showed up to talk with cadets about the army's "don't ask, don't tell policy" and other related issues. Such open discussion is not allwed even though U.S. Military Academy is also an institution of higher learning.
The Equality riders say, "At military and religious colleges around the nation bans on LGBT enrollment force students into closets of fear and self-hate. These bans devalue the life of LGBT people and slam the door on academic freedom."
Apparently the United States Army is afraid of allowing its cadets to be exposed to such wildly radical ideas.
Last October despite warnings to the contrary a similar group from SoulForce was allowed on the grounds of the US Naval Academy where they conversed with cadets over pizza at a dining hall and between classes in the yard.
The Navy survived the visit.
We get the following up to date news from SOULFORCE.
Twenty-one arrested at West Point Equality Ride action
(Highland Falls, NY) - Military police arrested fifteen Equality Riders and 6 community members as they attempted to step onto the United States Military Academy at West Point to speak as citizens and taxpayers opposed to the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy. The policy prevents openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from serving in the military or attending West Point.
"We are here as LGBT people to pose one important question to the future military leaders that attend West Point," said Haven Herrin, Equality Ride co-director. "The question is, 'Would you serve with me?' If the answer is 'yes,' then we need to tell Congress that military members are open to LGBT people serving with them. If the answer is 'no,' then we need to sit down and have a conversation with cadets that is 13 years overdue."
As they have at military campuses around the country, Equality Riders wore t-shirts with the question, "Would you serve with me?" printed on them. At the front gate of the Academy, Riders and community members stepped up to a line of Military Police who informed them that if they trespassed onto campus, they would be charged with a federal offense. The Riders and community members stepped past the MP's one-by-one and were escorted back to the front of the gate. Undeterred, they returned and stepped past the MP's again and were arrested and escorted onto the campus for processing. All those arrested were given a summons and immediately released.
Equality Rider Monica Carmean spoke as one of the organizers the West Point visit. "I am here as a straight ally because so often policies like 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' are put in place in the name of heterosexual people," Carmean said. "This policy reflects not just individual prejudice, but government-sanctioned discrimination."
Around 10,000 service members have been discharged under the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy at a cost of 364 million dollars to the U.S. government. Several of those discharged have been trained in crucial skills such as Arabic language.
Prior to the stop at West Point, Equality Riders were contacted by closeted cadets at the school. Although the cadets were unable to make an appearance at the action for fear of being expelled, one informed Riders that several cadets had pooled a donation and contributed to the Equality Ride.
A West Point professor, Richard Schoonhoven, watched the events unfold from the front gate. "I think it's a shame that the Academy isn't willing to enter into a constructive dialogue with Soulforce on this issue," Schoonhoven said. "'Don't Ask Don't Tell' is a problematic policy that needs to be addressed."
The Equality Ride has been hosted during its stay in New York City by Soulforce New York City. On Tuesday night, Soulforce NYC hosted a reception and fundraiser for the Equality Ride at the Hasted-Hunt Gallery in Manhattan. More than 150 people attended the event, including Soulforce founder Mel White, Neil Giuliano, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Ted Allen of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The morning of the action at West Point, Soulforce NYC hosted a breakfast for the Riders at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan.
The West Point visit is the final stop on the Equality Ride. Riders will have a chance to enjoy New York City on Thursday and then will return to Washington for a weekend of discussion and planning for the future.
For more information on the Equality Ride stop at West Point, see: www.equalityride.com/westpoint