Beginning at noon today, a strange face-off between Columbia activist-types and artist-types went down under Alma’s nose. First, the student council-sponsored Arts Fair unfurled on Low Steps, offering free hamburgers, pizza, models (clothed!) and music. Meanwhile, a clot of more than 100 anti-Columbia protesters with home-made noisemakers (corn kernel-filled plastic bottles) marched onto campus and coalesced at the sundial.

The Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, who had originally sponsored the protest, pulled out last night when they heard they wouldn’t get a permit to demonstrate on the Steps–because the Arts Fair had claimed the space long before. Admins offered the activists the Pupin lawn and told them to come in at the 120th entrance, but community groups refused to take the space bargain.

And so the unofficial, ad hoc protesters, led by the Coalition to Preserve Community, the Coalition to Save Harlem, and the Mirabal Sisters, gathered a group of SCEG-ites and bystanders. While Tom “Peter Pan complex” DeMott ululated into his bullhorn, the bands on the steps–including the Kitchen Cabinet and a funk band (we didn’t catch the name) drowned out the addresses. One old man, spittle flying from his mouth, tried to rush the stage to stop the “fucking kids” from playing–there are also reports some protesters pulled their amp cords. “Surreal,” said one bystander. “This is hilarious,” quipped another. More pics after the jump.