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At Columbia, Students Attack Minuteman Founder

New York Sun | October 5, 2006
BY ELIANA JOHNSON

Students stormed the stage at Columbia University's Roone auditorium yesterday, knocking over chairs and tables and attacking Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minutemen, a group that patrols the border between America and Mexico.

Mr. Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart, another member of his group, were in the process of giving a speech at the invitation of the Columbia College Republicans. They were escorted off the stage unharmed and exited the auditorium by a back door.

Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal." As security guards closed the curtains and began escorting people from the auditorium, the students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists, chanting victoriously, "Si se pudo, si se pudo," Spanish for "Yes we could!"

The Minuteman Project, an organization of volunteers founded in 2004 by Mr. Gilchrist, aims to keep illegal immigrants out of America by alerting law enforcement officials when they attempt to cross the border. The group uses fiery language and unorthodox tactics to advance its platform. "Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures with no common bond to hold them together, and a certain guarantee of the death of this nation as a harmonious ‘melting pot,'" the group's Web site warns.

The pandemonium that ensued as the evening's keynote speaker took the stage was merely the climax of protest that brewed all week. A number of campus groups, including the Chicano caucus, the African-American student organization, and the International Socialist organization, began planning their protests early this week when they heard that the Minutemen would be arriving on campus.

The student protesters, who attended the event clad in white as a sign of dissent, booed and shouted the speakers down throughout. They interrupted Mr. Stewart, who is African-American, when he referred to the Declaration of Independence's self-evident truth that "All men are created equal," calling him a racist, a sellout, and a black white supremacist.

A student's demand that Mr. Stewart speak in Spanish elicited thundering applause and brought the protesters to their feet. The protesters remained standing, turned their backs on Mr. Stewart for the remainder of his remarks, and drowned him out by chanting, "Wrap it up, wrap it up!" Mr. Stewart appeared unfazed by their behavior. He simply smiled and bellowed, "No wonder you don't know what you're talking about."

"These are racist individuals heading a project that terrorizes immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border," Ryan Fukumori, a Columbia junior who took part in the protest, told The New York Sun. "They have no right to be able to speak here."

The student protesters "rush to vindicate themselves with monikers like ‘liberal' and ‘open-minded,' but their actions, their attempt to condemn the Minutemen without even hearing what they have to say, speak otherwise," the president of the Columbia College Republicans, Chris Kulawik, said. On campus, the Republicans' flyers advertising the event were defaced and torn down.

The College Republicans expressed their concern about the lack of free speech for opposing viewpoints on the Columbia campus in the wake of the evening's events. "We've often feared that there's not freedom of speech at Columbia for more right-wing views — and that was proven tonight," the executive director of the Columbia College Republicans, Lauren Steinberg, said.

The Minutemen's arrival at Columbia drew protesters from around the city as well. An hour before Messrs. Stewart and Mr. Gilchrist took the stage, rowdy protests began outside the auditorium on Broadway, where activists chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Minutemen have got to go!"

 

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