This evening, after a 45-minute long diatribe by a preachy opening speaker, a large group of students rushed Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, in what descended into a free-for-all on the stage. Scroll below for the blow-by-blow and photos.
3:45 PM: Releases by the University and by the College Republicans appended below.
3:21 AM: Those who occupied the stage have released a statement, which has been added to the bottom of the post.
1:56 AM: Chicano Caucus press release at the bottom of the post.
1:23 AM: YouTube is down at the moment. Bwog is working to provide an alternative, so stay tuned.
CTV’s video of the protest:
7: 30 PM: In the biggest old-fashioned activist shindig Broadway has seen since Chris Kulawik’s last guest arrived in November 2005, hundreds of students and community members yelled and picketed outside Lerner to protest the arrival of Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen. They had catchy slogans.
“Workers of the world unite! Same struggle, same fight!”
“Minutemen, Nazis, KKK! Racists, fascists, go away!”
8:10 PM: A little Miles Davis music on overhead in Roone Arledge Auditorium strikes Bwog as ironic. Opening speaker Marvin Stewart steps up to the podium, and begins by thanking Jesus Christ and Chris Kulawik. “ARE YOU READY to surrender your liberties?” he demands of the crowd.
8:35 PM: Stewart is 30 minutes into a free-associative rant, ranging through scripture and America’s Consitutional Republican form of government (NOT Democratic). People in the increasingly restless crowd shout: “You don’t know shit about god! Black white supremacist!” “Go home! ”
to which Stewart counters: “I am home! God bless America!
to which the crowd replies: “BOOOOOOOOOOO!”
It’s getting more surreal by the minute.
Update 8:41 pm: Someone yells, “In Spanish, please!” The crowd bursts into a thunderous applause, which spirals into a full-out protest, complete with students wearing Mexican wrestling masks. The students are now standing up one by one, with their backs to the man, who has asked, “Are you standing with your backs to me? Why’d you come, no wonder you don’t know anything.” Republicans cheered, others sneered.
Update 8:45 pm: Some white-shirted students were just escorted out of the auditorium by security.
Update 8:47 pm: The man at the podium is still ranting, despite the beads of sweat trickling down his forehead and his voice-cracks… “Religion and morality are necessary for government.” Students chanting: “Wrap it up! Wrap it up!” Some guy just came out to try to get him to stop, and he said, “Let me finish…” he’s sweating, and looks angry. “All of you who are doing your chanting in here are the very ones that need this the most. But guess what, I’m not deterred.”
Update 8:51 pm: “I’m going to wrap this up because time is an issue.” With Kulawik looking uncomfortable, Stewart stops talking with a boisterous “God Bless America, and America Bless God!” Taking the podium, Kulawik chastens the crowd. “I was under the false assumption that this was an Ivy League School,” he says.
Finally, the Minuteman himself enters. “Now who’re you calling racist?” he shouts, putting his arm around Stewart, who is black. “I love the First Amendment. As soon as you graduate, you’ll all be investment bankers. I’ve been where you at. I know you hate yourselves.”
Update 9:00 pm: BWOG IS SHOCKED. STUDENTS WITH A BIG YELLOW SIGN JUST CAME ONTO THE STAGE. The sign says, “There are no illegals.” Students rise en masse from the audience and rush the stage. The Minuteman and the students engaged in a tug of war with the banner. More people rush the stage, prompting a fist-fight. One female student is kicked in the head. A guy in a pony tail (definitely not a student) rushes the stage and fights with students (several witnesses saw him kick a student) and then banded together with the Minuteman to shout the pledge of allegiance as the rumble spun out of hand, “One nation! Under God! Indivisible!”
There was at least two minutes of chaos between students, other students and the Minutemen. Bwog took cover.
Update: 9:01 pm: Security comes out, now the curtain is down. Students are still chanting, now everyone’s filing out.
Update: 9:15 pm: Students outside shouting, “They say, ‘get bent,’ we say, ‘let’s fight!'”
Update: 9:22 pm: A Bwog correspondent calls in a tip. A student defending the Minuteman right outside the gates on 115th was encircled by a group of protesters after a heated personal fight with just one of the protesters. The protesters then shouted, “Racist, go home!” Security showed up, and they started breaking up. Student last seen laughing on phone with friends. A mosh pit of triumphal students and community members dance and chant, “Asian, Black, Brown and White, we smashed the Minutemen tonight!”
Everyone and their mother has official responses to the brawl, after the jump…
– Bwogging by Lydia DePillis, Sara Vogel, and Will Snider
Press release from the Chicano Caucus, one of the main organizers of the protest:
On behalf of the Chicano Caucus Executive Board, I would like to clarify for the Columbia community any misunderstandings that may have arisen from tonight’s chain of events. While we were the chief organizers of the protest outside Roone Arledge, we were not responsible for any of the actions that led to the termination of the event. It is unfortunate that the series of events escalated to a point of violence. We feel that it is important to discuss and bring to light important issues concerning immigration, though they should be done in a peaceful manner. While we do not agree with Mr. Gilchrist and his organization’s views, we respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech and regret that his opinion was not heard.
Chicano Caucus President
Statement released by “Those who occupied the stage:”
We celebrate free speech: for that reason we allowed the Minutemen to speak, and for that same reason we peacefully occupied the stage and spoke ourselves. Our peaceful protest was violently attacked by members of the College Republicans and their supporters, who are the very same people who invited the Minutemen to our campus in the first place. The Minutemen are not a legitimate voice in the debate on immigration. They are a racist, armed militia who have declared open hunting season on immigrants, causing countless hate crimes and over 3000 deaths on the border. Why should exploitative corporations have free passes between nations, but individual people not? No human being is illegal.
Free Speech on Campus is Everyone’s Right and Responsibility
The University deplores the disruption that took place last night at the “Minutemen Forum” sponsored by the Columbia College Republicans at Alfred Lerner Hall. The specific facts surrounding the incident are under active investigation by the University and so it is premature to make any official statement regarding facts that are yet to be confirmed.
This much is a matter of core principle at Columbia: The freedom to speak, to pursue ideas, and to hear and evaluate viewpoints totally objectionable to our own is an essential value of this university and, indeed, of our civil society. We defend the right to peaceful protest and expression of opposing views. But it is never acceptable for anyone to physically take to a stage and interrupt a speaker.
Our regulations are intended to help event organizers, participants and protestors maintain a safe environment for members of the University community and their guests to engage in meaningful and sometimes contentious debate across the spectrum of academic and political issues. We will continue to review the events of last evening to determine how that safe environment was violated and take appropriate measures to ensure it does not happen again.
Statement by the Columbia College Republicans
On October 4, 2006 the founder of the Minuteman Project was assaulted moments after he began speaking. Students stormed the stage, brandishing a banner, as a further wave of student protesters rushed the speaker in a pre-meditated and coordinated
attack. Within moments, the entire room erupted with the speaker’s entourage rushing to protect him while Columbia security stood idly by. After fifteen chaotic minutes, the limited security presence finally gained control and terminated the event.
We are ashamed for our university today in light of the actions of our peers and the inaction of our administration.
“As a moderator on stage during the event, I was put in physical danger,” says Chris Kulawik, President of the Columbia University College Republicans.
“The ability of political minorities to express themselves safely on campus has been called into serious question tonight,” says Lucas Michelson, a junior in Columbia College.
“This has jeopardized our ability to host future events,” says Lauren Steinberg, Executive Director of the College Republicans.
Statement by the Latino Alumni Association of Columbia University
The Latino Alumni Association of Columbia University (LAACU) notes with much concern the violent incident that occurred when Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen, was on the Columbia University Campus during a student organized event. While LAACU encourages educational events that foster an academic debate and present a balanced dialogue on important and timely issues, such as the immigration question in the United States, LAACU deplores any violent actions, inflammatory remarks, and other provocations that may have caused an escalation to violence. LAACU stands ready to offer its support to the Columbia University community.
LAACU was established to support, promote and channel the academic, social, professional and developmental interests of Columbia University’s Latino community, both past and present.