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Friday, October 06, 2006

Minutemen get a New York welcome


Protestors Rush Minutemen Gilchrist's Speech Cut Short by Ensuing Brawl

Laura Brunts

Posted: 10/5/06

Protestors took the stage minutes after Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, came to the microphone in Roone Arledge Auditorium Wednesday night, sparking a chaotic brawl involving more than 20 students, other attendees, and guests.

Two students in the International Socialist Organization unfurled a yellow banner reading, "No human being is illegal!" which prompted other protestors to rush the stage. Gilchrist supporters then clamored on stage while the speakers were ushered out of the auditorium.

"We were aware that there was going to be a sign and we were going to occupy the stage," said a protestor who was on stage and asked to remain anonymous. "I don't feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. ... The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."

Columbia security officers and presidential delegates, University employees who regulate events, broke up the brawl and closed the curtains, forcing 350 attendees to leave the auditorium and eventually the building.

The Columbia University College Republicans hosted Gilchrist and two other speakers from the Minutemen, a vigilante group that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal immigrants.

No one was arrested and University spokesman Robert Hornsby said that he could not discuss the consequences for those involved because the investigation is ongoing. Immediately following the event, Hornsby said that students would be dealt with under Dean's Discipline, but the response for those from outside Columbia was still undetermined.

"The specific facts surrounding the incident are under active investigation by the University, so it is premature to make any official statement regarding facts that are yet to be determined," Hornsby told Spectator last night. There were dozens of video and digital cameras in the room, and much of this footage belongs to Columbia groups, but Hornsby would not say whether this footage would factor into the investigation.

The brawl was the culmination of audience dissent which grew louder and more aggressive.

Marvin Stewart, an ordained minister and member of the Minutemen board of directors, was the first speaker. Audience members shouted interjections throughout his address, calling Stewart, who is black, a hypocrite for supporting the Minutemen. Stewart responded by becoming louder and telling the audience that they did not know anything about government.

During a long pause, one audience member shouted, "In Spanish please!" which brought on an enormous wave of stomping feet and applause from the audience. Stewart countered that "one of the requirements of citizenship is that you speak English," before he was completely drowned out by the noise of the audience. Many attendees stood up and turned their backs on the speaker in protest and began chanting "wrap it up."

Eventually Gilchrist and Chris Kulawik, CC '08, president of the College Republicans and a Spectator columnist, called Stewart off the stage. "I clearly had the false assumption that I was at an Ivy League school," Kulawik said as he introduced the main speaker.

"Who's a racist now?" said Gilchrist, putting an arm around Stewart."I love the first amendment!" he shouted. "You're doing a great job, kids. I'm going to have more fun with this than with my prepared speech."

But before he could get much farther, two students stepped on stage with a banner. Student protestors said that the demonstration was meant to be peaceful, but when students with the Republicans and other Gilchrist supporters came on stage, the confrontation turned violent. One student was kicked in the head and bleeding, students reported.

The protestors occupying the stage included members of the ISO, the Chicano Caucus-which organized a protest beforehand on the Broadway sidewalk outside Lerner Hall-and some unaffiliated with either group. Neither student group officially sanctioned rushing the stage.

Did they think they could bring this shit to New York and not get a reaction?

Storming the stage was wrong, Gilchrist has a right to his odious message, but once again, the College Republicans play with fire and get burned. Do they hand out sheets with each recruit?

I dislike the antics of ANSWER and friends, but this would have happened in any public forum in New York. The Minutemen are widely regarded as a Klan offshoot and dragging out some black minister as cover didn't fool the minority audience for a second.

Protests which stop people from speaking don't help anyone, but again, the College Republicans choose a provocative situation and wonder why it explodes on them.

posted by Steve @ 1:14:00 AM

1:14:00 AM

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