In the aftermath of the protest on the night of October 4 against Jim Gilchrist and the racist Minutemen at Roone Arledge auditorium, we want to state clearly: We are proud to send the message to the country that racist and fascist groups are not welcome at Columbia or in New York City.
As Chicanos and Latinos, alongside African Americans and progressive people of other nationalities, we took it as our responsibility to give voice to the undocumented immigrant families who live in fear at terrorist vigilante groups like the Minutemen. Armed patrols by these groups force more and more people desperate for work to find even more hazardous ways into the United States. Over 3,000 people-including hundreds of children-have died in the desert. Their blood is on the hands of Gilchrist and his thugs.
Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion. Like Hitler in pre-Nazi Germany, Gilchrist and the Minutemen attempt to demonize foreign-born poor people, blaming “illegals” for society’s problems. His group doesn’t present reasoned debate. It spouts racism and hatred, aiming to divide people against one another.
Regardless of how Gilchrist tries to sanitize his message for national audiences, more candid moments tell the real story. Gilchrist is a member of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which is now notorious for referring to Mexicans as “savages.” Speaking about Mexicans and Central American immigrants, Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox once said, “They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people.”
This vile racism translates directly into violence on the ground. “It should be legal to kill illegals,” said one Minutemen volunteer. “Just shoot ’em on sight. That’s my immigration policy recommendation.” It is no wonder that neo-Nazi organizations like the National Alliance praise the Minuteman Project in their publications, and have members signing up for Minutemen militias.
We are sure that if the Nazi party held a public meeting on campus, Jewish groups would be there to challenge them-so would we. We are sure that if the Ku Klux Klan held a public meeting on campus, African American groups would be there to challenge them-so would we. The Minutemen are no different.
We are pleased that an overwhelming number of people answered our call to demonstrate against the racist, fascist Minutemen the night of October 4. The hundreds of people outside Roone Arledge chanting, “Minutemen, Nazis, KKK, racists, fascists, go away!” represented students and community people from all walks of life. Inside the auditorium, perhaps as much as 80 percent of the crowd was repelled by the Minutemen’s message of hate.
When we walked on stage last night with anti-racist banners for immigrant rights, we were met with violent attack by Gilchrist’s goons. We were the ones who were punched and kicked. We are proud that despite these attacks, we held our ground. When Gilchrist walked off stage, it was because he and his Minutemen outfit were isolated.
This is not an issue of free speech. The Minutemen were able to reserve a hall at our university and had the protection of campus security and the NYPD-all to espouse their hate speech. We along with hundreds of others expressed our right to speak and protest.
Over the last 50 years, throughout the Civil Rights movement and the women’s rights movement, ultra-right wing groups have routinely used violence, lynchings, armed assaults and bombings against oppressed people. Yet when we organize to oppose them to express our contempt for their violence, we are criticized for inhibiting the free speech of the ones who perpetrate violence.
We thank everyone who joined our protest last night, inside and outside of the auditorium.
Shame on the Columbia University administration for launching an investigation of peaceful protesters, and failing to condemn the perpetrators of violence. Shame on the College Republicans for inviting this fascist thug and provoking such outrage on our campus.