About 200 Yale College and graduate students filled Wall Street on Friday to protest the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The participants, some wearing business suits and camouflage gags over their faces, were responding to Yale’s decision last week to temporarily suspend the Law School’s nondiscrimination policy. Yale President Richard Levin announced Tuesday that the Law School would suspend the policy so the military could participate in the fall interviewing program, despite its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. In not allowing military recruiters to participate, Yale faced the loss of $350 million in federal funding.
“We’re here to say that the discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals is unacceptable in our community,” protest organizer Lindsay Barenz LAW ’04 said in a speech.
The protest, organized by the Student/Faculty Alliance for Military Equality (SAME) began at the Law School’s Wall Street entrance. Supporters listened to speeches by Barenz, Darren Cohen LAW ’04, Kevin Chambers LAW ’04 and Law School Dean Anthony Kronman.
The protesters then marched to the Holiday Inn on Whitney Avenue, where the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General Corps was holding interviews with potential Law School recruits.
Holding signs that read “Fight Homophobia,” “Liberty and Justice for All,” and ” ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Silences Us All,” protesters observed a moment of silence at the entrance to the hotel.
The nearly 50 participants in suits and gags led the procession to the Holiday Inn. A statement handed to rally participants said that the gags “symbolized the silencing effect of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on the voices and spirits of America’s gay servicemembers.”
In his speech, Kronman said that the Law School is a community “committed to certain ideas and to certain values.”
Kronman added that according to the Law School’s principles, all students should have the opportunity to participate fully in all campus job fairs.
“Any organization or individual who comes within the orbit of our life must conform with our principles,” Kronman said.
Organizers said that they were pleased by Kronman’s support for the protest. They said that the entire Law School, not just the students, opposed the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
Participants stressed their concern for the military’s “heavy-handed” tactics; Yale, they said, should not have been forced to choose between federal funding for medical research and the Law School’s nondiscrimination policy.
“Using medical funds as a pawn to enforce a discriminatory policy is wrong,” Barenz said. “It is very simple.”
Protesters stressed that the rally was staged in protest of the military’s policy, not the military itself.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the military,” Chambers said in his speech. “It is because of that respect that I am outraged and pained.”
Organizers said that they were impressed by the turnout, especially because there was representation from Yale College, the School of Medicine, and the New Haven community.
Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, who chose to wear a suit and gag, said she was concerned about the amount of pressure the Department of Defense was able to exert on the Law School.
“This raises the question, ‘To what degree are we a private institution?'” Rosenberg said.
Barenz said that SAME has not planned any other protests, and that it will now shift its focus to lobbying and research.
“We’re really going to try to figure out what is our best strategy to highlight the foolishness of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” Barenz said.