Protesters storm stage at Columbia University (WND photo)
After nearly six months, Columbia University has issued punishments, including “slaps on the wrist,” to students who wildly rushed a campus stage and shut down a speech by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist.
As WND reported, Gilchrist was attacked at the New York City school during an Oct. 4 speech on illegal immigration. Minuteman board member Marvin Stewart, an African-American who spoke prior to Gilchrist, was taunted with the “n-word” and was on stage when the protesters stopped the event. WND’s Jerome Corsi was waiting backstage, scheduled to follow Gilchrist by reading excerpts from their co-authored book, “Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders.”
Video of the attack can be seen here
Three students confirmed to the Columbia Daily Spectator campus newspaper Monday they were charged with simple violations of the university’s Rules of Conduct.
The paper said the warnings – the lowest of four possible outcomes – will be notated on the students’ transcripts and remain there until the end of 2008.
Students who receive a disciplinary warning suffer no financial or academic restraints, and the notation simply states “future violations will be treated more seriously.”
Then Tuesday, the paper reported at least three other students were censured, a step up in severity from a disciplinary warning. A censured student who violates rules a second time is automatically suspended from the university.
Corsi said yesterday the students deserved much tougher punishments and called it “a sad day for higher education.”
“The university is supposed to be a bastion of free speech. Instead, Columbia has decided to take a political position,” he said. “The students who disrupted our Minuteman presentation should have been severely disciplined, possibly even expelled. Instead, by issuing minor punishments and rebukes, Columbia signals that protecting the free speech of the Minuteman Project was far less important than making sure the disruptive protesters had the opportunity to deliver their violent message of angry opposition.”
One of the three students given a disciplinary warning, Monique Dols, told the paper she considered it “a light punishment.”
“It’s a slap on the wrist,” she said. “It’s a victory for free speech and anti-racism.”
A second student handed a disciplinary warning, David Judd, president of the International Socialist Organization, was found, along with Dols, to have briefly interrupted a university function and aided others in doing so.
Minuteman board member Marvin Stewart speaks amid taunts at Columbia University (WND photo)
A third student, Andrew Tillet-Saks, also was found to have engaged “in conduct that places another in danger of bodily harm.”
Minuteman national media director Tim Bueler said that after taking six months to hand down a decision, the disciplinary warnings were a “travesty of justice.”
“They should have been expelled from the school,” he told the Columbia paper.
Judd said he’s glad the Minutemen are outraged.
“They get press from whining, but an impression of strength is more important in the long run for a vigilante group which thrives on intimidating immigrants, and this verdict, like the protest, helps subvert that,” he said.
Tillet-Saks insisted the students who went on stage acted peacefully, and he contended the Minutemen were the dangerous ones.
“I don’t think I endangered anybody. I’m upset at the administration for choosing to condemn my peaceful actions in protest while the Minutemen walk around toting rifles,” he said. “It’s illogical, hypocritical and also a hindrance to further progress. I’m not pleased with the university.”
Tillet-Saks criticized the university’s disciplinary process, saying the students had no rights and administrators didn’t give them due process.
Outgoing Student Governing Board chairman Sakib Khan wrote in a statement the “whole discipline process is/was a show trial to avert a lawsuit by the Minutemen against the university.”
“The thought of being suspended or expelled certainly crossed my mind,” Tillet-Saks said. “I didn’t think it was a likelihood. I understood that if that’s what they thought was best for their PR they wouldn’t have hesitated to do that.”
The paper reported yesterday students given censures were Karina Garcia, chairwoman of the Latino outreach group Lucha; Lucha member Martin Lopez; and Cosette Olivo.
Garcia told the Daily Spectator the university had “brought shame on itself” with the disciplinary action.
“They bowed to right-wing pressure. It’s noteworthy that Columbia reserved the harshest punishment for Latinos – two Mexican-Americans and one Dominican,” she said.
‘Workers of the world unite!’
Just before the Oct. 4 event, a group of protesters estimated by New York police to number around 200 assembled outside the meeting hall 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!”
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 said the protesters were “angrier than I have seen before.”
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!”
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.
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.”
‘There are no illegals’
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!’”