Protesters storm stage at Columbia University (WND photo)
Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist was attacked by angry, violent protesters last night who stormed the stage during his speech at Columbia University in New York City, forcing an abrupt end to the event.
An African-American member of the Minuteman board who spoke prior to Gilchrist was taunted with the “n-word,” according to WND columnist Jerome Corsi.
Corsi had been scheduled to follow Gilchrist with a speech of his own, but after university security personnel whisked the Minuteman leader offstage, the New York Young Republican Club meeting was shut down.
A video of the chaos at Roone Arledge Auditorium was posted on the Web by Columbia University Television.
Gilchrist told WND the “violent outburst is yet another indication that those who support illegal immigration are happy to use communist tactics in their intolerant determination to prevent the Minutemen from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
A protester who spoke anonymously to the independent student newspaper Columbia Spectator said the stage takeover was planned.
“I don’t feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. … The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration.”
Prior to the event, a group of protesters estimated by New York police to number around 200 assembled with placards and a loudspeaker to denounce Gilchrist and the Minutemen.
Slogans on the placards included, “Workers of the world unite! Same struggle, same fight!,” and “Minutemen, Nazis, KKK! Racists, fascists, go away!”
Protesters at Columbia University speech by Minuteman members (WND photo)
About 20 protesters managed to momentarily take control of the stage during Gilchrist’s speech, with loud shouts and fists thrust in anger. Security fought to restrain them and managed to rush Gilchrist backstage before he could be assaulted, according to Corsi
Corsi told WND the protesters were “angrier than I have seen before.” The melee at Columbia suggests the “pro-illegal immigration forces are moving in a more violent direction,” he said.
“The street protests last spring didn’t convince Congress to pass an amnesty,” Corsi commented, “so maybe the next wave of their protest activity will turn more violent, in their frustration that the U.S. public is not convinced they should be allowed to live and work in the U.S. in open defiance of our rule of law.”
After taking over the stage, protesters unrolled a banner that read, in both Arabic and English, “No one is ever illegal.”
According to the New York Sun, as security guards began escorting people from the auditorium, students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists, chanting victoriously, “Si se pudo, si se pudo,” Spanish for “Yes we could!”
Minuteman board member Marvin Stewart speaks amid taunts at Columbia University (WND photo)
Marvin Stewart, an African-American minister and member of the Minuteman Project’s board of directors, was the first speaker at the Columbia event.
Protesters in the crowd harassed Stewart with shouts, and toward the end of his speech, some in the audience stood silently and turned their backs to him.
Stewart expressed dismay at the audience’s intolerance.
“If this is how low we have sunk in U.S. higher education, I am deeply concerned about our future,” he said. “Don’t any Columbia University professors teach these students the importance of free speech under the First Amendment?”
The Sun report said that when Stewart referred to the Declaration of Independence’s self-evident truth that “All men are created equal,” audience members called him a racist, a sellout and a black white supremacist.
One student’s demand that Stewart speak in Spanish drew thundering applause and brought the protesters to their feet, the New York paper said. At that point, the protesters turned their backs to Stewart and drowned him out by chanting, “Wrap it up, wrap it up!”
Stewart appeared unfazed, however, and with a smile, said, “No wonder you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The Columbia Spectator said Gilchrist and the president of the College Republicans, Chris Kulawik, eventually called Stewart off the stage.
“I clearly had the false assumption that I was at an Ivy League school,” Kulawik said as he introduced the main speaker.
“Who’s a racist now?” said Gilchrist, putting an arm around Stewart. “I love the first amendment!” he shouted. “You’re doing a great job, kids. I’m going to have more fun with this than with my prepared speech.”
But before he could get much farther, the campus paper said, two students stepped on stage with a banner.
Corsi said that when university personnel screened audience members as they entered, a number of eggs were confiscated.
‘They’re the violent ones’
A purported joint statement by the protesters was posted on the website NYC Indymedia, insisting they were engaged in a peaceful demonstration and casting blame on the College Republicans.
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.
A blog by the Columbia University student magazine “Blue and White” logged the event in real time, reporting students came onto the stage with a large yellow sign declaring, “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!”
The blogger said there were at least “two minutes of chaos between students, other students and the Minutemen,” during which the blogger “took cover.”
Outside, the blogger said, protesters were shouting, “They say, ‘get bent,’ we say, ‘let’s fight!'”
One defender of the Minutemen outside became encircled by a group of protesters after engaging in a heated discussion with one of them.
The protesters then shouted, “Racist, go home!” promoting security personnel to break things up.
Later, the blogger reported, “A mosh pit of triumphal students and community members dance and chant, ‘Asian, Black, Brown and White, we smashed the Minutemen tonight!'”