Six Vassar Students Arrested in Times Square Protest Over "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725,

(New York, NY) — Six Vassar College students were arrested at 3 p.m. Friday at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. The students were holding a peaceful sit-in to protest the federal policy that denies openly gay Americans the right to serve in the military. They were charged with criminal trespassing and released Saturday evening.

Five of the arrestees — David Rodriguez, Pete Whinn, Julia Golomb, Clare Ciervo, and Leslie Hamilton — were inside the recruiting station to support a sixth student, Curt Peterson. Peterson, a gay man, entered the station at 1 p.m. and attempted to enlist in the Army without hiding who he is or whom he loves. When his attempt to enlist was denied on the basis of sexual orientation, Peterson and 12 supporters commenced the sit-in. Sixty additional students from Vassar held a simultaneous sit-in in Times Square.

The Vassar students are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a nationwide effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze discussion about the human and national security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Since the beginning of the summer, 43 openly gay young people affiliated with Right to Serve have attempted to enlist in 17 cities. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Previously, Peterson was one of three gay Americans who attempted to enlist in Times Square on September 25. When Peterson and his fellow enlistees arrived at the office, they found the country’s busiest recruiting center locked and dark. The would-be recruits held a sit-in with more than eighty supporters from area colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that recruiters had cancelled appointments without notice in order to avoid gay Americans who wish to serve their country with honesty and dignity.

More recently, three young people were denied the right to serve on October 10 in Los Angeles. Among them was Vincent Cervantes, a student at Azusa Pacific University. Cervantes and five other Azusa Pacific students were arrested in the sit-in that followed. The following day, Cervantes posted his testimony as a gay student on the conservative Christian campus, claiming that the experience of standing up for social justice had made it impossible for him to live in the closet. Cervantes has since withdrawn from Azusa rather than "repent" in accordance with school policy.