Eva Fortes, C ’09, is the woman of the hour–along with Monique Dols, she took on Hannity and Colmes on very short notice. The bad news? They didn’t let the girls tell their story. The good news? Bwog interviewed Fortes–who started the anti-Minutemen facebook group and penned an article in today’s Spec–shortly before she went on national TV. You’ll be able to see the video online soon, and Bwog will post YouTubes of both that show and tonight’s O’Reilly Factor in the morning (we get tired too). Meanwhile, here’s Eva’s story, unspun and edited only a little bit.

evaWere you involved in the inside protest?

I got the heads up that it was going to happen, and about the desire to have a protest, And so, the minute we were sure, we had a meeting, and that was very much just people shouting out ideas, we’re going to protest, in what manner are we going to protest? At that meeting, we decided that we were going to have an outside protest, and to have as many people as possible come. We wanted to have also a protest outside Lerner, but I think Columbia didn’t give us the space.

As far as people going inside, we decided that those who wanted to go in and actually listen could go in. I really wanted to hear what he had to say, and ask him good questions at the end. And then we decided we should have some consolidating color, we would all just have white t-shirts. And then we discussed, should we protest inside? We weren’t sure there would be a question and answer, and we had a couple of people type up a question sheet to hand out to people as they were going in, so if there were a question and answer, we would be prepared with actual and difficult questions. The other plan, if we weren’t allowed to ask questions–we didn’t outlaw heckling, heckling was alright–was to, at the very end of Gilchrist’s speech, when the applause starts, we were going to stand up and turn around, and that was the extent of it.

When I got to the protest yesterday, it was going really well. I went in and sat down. I saw Karina [Garcia] there, and I asked her, hey, things have changed since that initial meeting, what are we going to do? And she said, we’re not going to do anything, at all. And I said, are we even going to be standing up and turning around at the end of the speech, and she said no no no, just sit, because they’re allowing question and answer. Throughout the speech, people were heckling, I was heckling. I think he should have ignored a lot more of the heckling than he actually did. When the students came out with the banner, I was surprised, and when people rushed the stage, I had no idea what was going on. I and the friend I had come with were the only ones to stay seated. I was honestly really frightened and embarrassed. One of the girls who was holding the poster said hey, they’re going to go after the people who rushed the stage, so let’s have a meeting of all those who rushed the stage. I went with them because I felt implicated in the thing already because my name was on the facebook group and I was going to write the spec article.

They were still under the auspices of this had been a kind of spontaneous thing. I helped draft the statement, and then I went home, and I was still confused about what had happened and how I felt about it. When I wrote the article, I was trying to focus on the issues at hand. Unfortunately, what this has turned into is a huge fiasco about the right to free speech, instead of the issues of immigration.

So I wrote the article. Last night, I got a call saying it was planned. The banner thing and running up to the stage was planned, and that was the first I had heard of that. Those who ran to the front of the stage had been told that people would come out with a banner and they should go up and support them. The thing that has been eating my conscience has been that in the meeting after what happened, the main thing we talked about was, they’re going to try to turn us against each other, we can’t break off into different sections, which I totally support. That’s my main critique about the left in general always, that the left turns against itself, whereas the right sticks together.

I think that 4 or 5 people actually knew about it, and I think the rest of the people who rushed forward, it was a moment of solidarity. The fact that it was somewhat planned, and they didn’t tell me about it, especially since they knew that I’m already implicated in it, my name is up there, I was really taken aback that they didn’t pull me in on that. Had I known about it, I would have at least objected, and if that had not been heard, I would have stayed outside with the protest on the sidewalk. It’s unfortunate that this is kind of a small faction that chose to do that, because as much as I disagree with what Gilchrist stood for, and what the minutemen do, I still think that he should have been allowed to speak. The other view is, yeah, he can speak, but we can speak over him, which is the way they’ve been presenting it. Legally, that’s true. Individual people aren’t bound to recognize the free speech of others, it’s institutions who are bound to do so. But by running forward to the stage, even though we had no intention to make it violent, at all—the only violence came from the minutemen—even so, the act of rushing the stage is such a threatening act, especially when there’s so many people, and you don’t know what they’re going to do. I just still can’t believe they did it.

Are there others who think the same way you do?

Oh yeah. Most of the protesters don’t agree with the rush of the stage, especially those who stood outside. A lot of people feel that it was a huge misrepresentation of our beliefs, as individuals, as protesters, as believers in free speech. I can see why they wanted to make a bigger point, since just sitting there isn’t getting anything done, but I just don’t think that was a good way to go about it.

Have you thought about getting your own speaker?

If we do get a speaker who’s not really controversial, because we don’t want to get a counterspeaker for the Republicans to protest, it would be to invite someone what everyone can kind of agree with what they’re saying. The republicans have a reputation for just inviting people who incite these kinds of things. We know it’s what they want, but at the same time, it had to happen. Those who rushed the stage were taking the sentiment to an extreme, so they were still representing us, but in another way. Because in any political debate like this, you’re going to have a spectrum, just like there are members of the College Republicans who absolutely do not agree with the fact that Gilchrist was even invited here.

What was the mood in the meeting afterwards?

The mood in the meeting afterwards started out as one of remorse. Remorse, and anger at the attacks. It seemed to me like there was an air of students being defensive about what they had done. There was a lot of, we have to stand together on this, we’re not sorry for what we did, but we have to explain why we did it.   

– Interview by Lydia DePillis