The academy was their last stop on a cross-country tour of 20 conservative Christian and military colleges that protest organizers say discriminate against gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
Members of the protest group Soulforce Equality Riders have faced charges for protests at five of the campuses. Ten were handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct after demonstrating April 14 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
On Wednesday, about 50 protesters arrived on buses at the gate that separates the storied U.S. Military Academy from the village of Highland Falls. The 21 detained had entered campus grounds and were warned they risked federal charges if they continued to try to protest inside the post.
After several trips through the gate, they were cited by military police for entry to military property for unlawful purposes, a misdemeanor. Federal law prohibits protests on military installations.
"I felt it was definitely something I should be doing," said protester Chad Brady, 20, of Mount Pleasant, Mich., who was among those ticketed. "To see government-sanctioned discrimination, it really bothers me."
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy for the U.S. military and its service academies, set by Congress and signed by President Clinton, allows gays to serve in the armed forces if they abstain from homosexual activity and do not disclose their sexual orientation.