The girl with the banner: Karina Garcia
Written by Bwog Staff
After Avi makes his TV appearance on the Factor at 8:00 pm, stay tuned for sophomore Eva Fortes, the creator of the Protest the Minutemen Facebook Group, on Hannity and Colmes at 9:00 pm.
We gave you Kulawik, we gave you Khan, and now we give you Karina, one of the main protest organizers (Bwog’s feeling alliterative today…though that one is quite unfortunate, considering the subject matter…)
Karina doesn’t represent everyone who rushed the stage or protested behind the barricades, but she was on the front lines. This is what she has to say.
Do you think people were surprised by the force of the protest?
Why would people be surprised that there would be such a strong response from Latino student groups and….people of conscience? This is an organization that wants to take it upon themselves to physically stop the flow of illegal immigration. This is an organization that takes it upon itself to torture and harass and intimidate and kill people who are coming here to work. (Karina clarifies: they are not a legitimate authority, they are racist vigilantes with no training or credentials). So why would people be surprised that there would be a strong reaction?
I don’t think people were so much surprised by the protest outside as the violence inside.
We were surprised by the violence inside, actually. We knew that when we went on that stage and held up that banner, that public security was gonna come up to us and ask us to leave, that maybe they would have pulled us off the stage. What we didn’t know was that the Minutemen and the Republicans were gonna take it upon themselves to beat up our members. So I guess this kind of goes in line with the type of viglante violence that is proposed and is enacted by the organization they brought.
Do you think it might have been more effective in terms of presenting your side of the story to wait for people to challenge Gilchrist in the Q&A session?
No, I don’t think so. We wanted to speak for our families, and for the people who couldn’t be in that room. We were planning on holding a banner behind him and away from him that said, say “no to racism.” And we knew that there was going to be press, and there were going to be pictures, and we wanted people to know, we don’t support these people. We wanted that to be in the backdrop. We didn’t stop him from speaking. I firmly believe that. He could keep speaking, but we’re going to stand behind him at least with our banner. If he’s going to go around the country and say yeah, I spoke at Columbia University, coming to speak at Columbia is going to give his organization a lot of publicity, and there’s going to be pictures involved, and we want people to know that no, we’re not okay with what he’s saying. That this turned out the way it did, it was completely…I don’t know.
More from Karina and the whole outraged press release from “Those who rushed the stage,” after the jump.
What was the planning process like for the outside protest?
When we put out a call for a demonstration outside against the minutemen, there was a huge response from organizations on and off campus. A lot of people who really understand the gravity of the situation and what the minutemen mean for our community. Chicano Caucus initiatied the call for the protest outside, and from there, the word spread out to everyone, and people mobilized.
The ones inside were not involved with the main event outside, then?
There were a few people who decided to go up when Gilchrist went on with the sign.
What did you envision happening? Did you think people were going to rush the stage afterwards?
Not at all. Not at all. When we were going to go up to the stage, we didn’t know what the response was going to be from public safety. We had no idea that the Minutemen themselves and the College Republicans would take the liberty to take justice into their own hands in an auditorium full of students. We know that that’s the kind of behavior they have in the middle of the desert, this big justice and violence, but we had no idea that they would do that in public at a university.
Have you been contacted by the administration or public safety about potential consequences?
There’s been a lot of national media play. Did you see the Fox News broadcast last night?
One thing I do want to mention after his very public statement about the Chicano Caucus, which is completely false, the Chicano Caucus organized the protest outside. The people who went up and peacefully protested onstage, were totally working on their own behalf. The fact that there were Chicanos who decided to do this, I don’t think that’s very surprising. And so I did want to say that as a result of Kulawik’s false allegations against us, people who didn’t even come to the protest have been getting hate mail and threats and phone calls, which is the craziest thing. That just goes to show the kind of people that the republicans bring on campus. So it shows how right we were from the very beginning to protest them, because now the kind of harassment and intimidation and violence that’s used against our community is now used against us at our own school by the same people.
It looks so also on television because none of the protesters went on the show that it’s a bunch of crazy Columbia kids who don’t allow free speech. Do you fear that people will get the wrong impression of activism at Columbia?
We need to set the record straight, for sure. We’re going to have our own press conference, and we’re going to have a protest to say what really happened.
Is there disagreement among the members of Chicano Caucus and other organizations over the appropriateness of the tactics?
Of course. That’s the reason why Chicano Caucus as an organization wasn’t the people that were protesting onstage. Sure there were people who thought that our tactics weren’t, you know, right or whatever after the fact, but that’s the reason they didn’t get involved in the first place. The people who wanted to do more met up on their own. Not everyone in the organization was in favor of doing more than asking a few difficult questions.
What was the meeting afterwards of the people on the stage like?
I think we were very happy, actually.
But the protest descended into violence.
Well, we weren’t happy about the violence, because you know, kicks to the face and punches to the stomach aren’t very pleasant of course, but we were happy that we really stood up for ourselves and we stood up for our family. The minutemen go to a lot of events across the country, but this was the first time that they went to an event, and they couldn’t go on. Not because we were holding their mouths shut or because we physically attacked them, but because they understood that the people they were talking to weren’t buying what they were saying, and they couldn’t continue, and they couldn’t win, and they had nothing to say. The nonsense that he was saying wasn’t being taken. The fact that we shut them up without physically shutting them up, that was a huge victory, and when people saw that on television, that we knew that organization for what it was, I think they felt very good and very happy.
I think that, on television at least, people didn’t see Gilchrist, all they saw was the reaction.
It depends on who you’re asking. If you’re asking an immigrant family, and they know who the minutemen are, and they see that Columbia students stood up against them and shut them down, I think they were actually very happy. There’s also a group of people who are gonna say, oh no, you guys were just a group of angry Mexicans who just stood up uncontrollably and attacked. It’s very offensive and it hurts that people are so equipped to buy the narrative that this is an unplanned thing. It wasn’t that at all. We sat down, we planned it, we knew the consequences of getting on the stage, and we did it because we wanted to send our message.
Where are you moving from here?
Next Wednesday, we’re going to have an event on who the Minutemen are, because I don’t think people know who the Minutemen are, and I think that’s a source of the confusion over why there was such a strong response. And then we’re going to have a press conference explaining what we did. And I’m proud of it. The images people see is us getting messed up, and kicked in the face. My family called me to ask if I was ok. There’s a clear image of a person on the stage kicking a person on the stage. It’s completely unprovoked and ridiculous. At the same time, what’s being said about those images is that we couldn’t control ourselves and attacked them. So we need to make it clear that we were the ones attacked.
– Interview by Lydia DePillis
Full statement of those who occupied the stage
In the aftermath of the protest on the night of October 4 against Jim Gilchrist and the racist Minutemen at Roone Arledge auditorium, we want to state clearly: We are proud to send the message to the country that racist and fascist groups are not welcome at
As Chicanos and Latinos, alongside African Americans and progressive people of other nationalities, we took it as our responsibility to give voice to the undocumented immigrant families who live in fear at terrorist vigilante groups like the Minutemen. Armed patrols by these groups force more and more people desperate for work to find even more hazardous ways into the
Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion. Like Hitler in pre-Nazi
Regardless of how Gilchrist tries to sanitize his message for national audiences, more candid moments tell the real story. Gilchrist is a member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which is now notorious for referring to Mexicans as “savages.” Speaking about Mexicans and Central American immigrants, Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox once said, “They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people.”
This vile racism translates directly into violence on the ground. “It should be legal to kill illegals,” said one Minutemen volunteer. “Just shoot ’em on sight. That’s my immigration policy recommendation.” It is no wonder that neo-Nazi organizations like the National Alliance praise the Minuteman Project in their publications, and have members signing up for Minutemen militias.
We are sure that if the Nazi party held a public meeting on campus, Jewish groups would be there to challenge them—so would we. We are sure that if the Ku Klux Klan held a public meeting on campus, African American groups would be there to challenge them—so would we. The Minutemen are no different.
We thank everyone who joined our protest last night, inside and outside of the auditorium.
Shame on the