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Riot Breaks Out At Minutemen Speech At Columbia University

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A physical confrontation broke out at Columbia University Wednesday when a group of students staged a protest against a speech being given by the founder of the Minuteman Project, a controversial group that patrols the Mexican border for illegal immigrants. NY1's Nicole Johnson filed the following report.

An outright battle broke out Wednesday on stage at Columbia University, with Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist caught in the middle. His message against illegal immigrants sparked a protest by students who took over the stage, cutting his speech short.

“The way that we reacted is just what we want him to realize. We do not accept racism in New York or anywhere else, but that’s the reaction that he gets from New Yorkers and I hope that he gets the message,” said one student.

“There’s a disconnect between their message and what they actually do and that’s what I have a big problem with,” added another student.

Gilchrist was invited to speak at Columbia by campus Republicans. He's known for his controversial opinion against immigration, and is pushing a movement to take over the country’s boarders with guns.

“This allowing someone who’s gotten here illegally to stay cannot be tolerated if we are going to be a nation governed by the rule of law,” Gilchrist said. “If we tolerate this, then we’re going to be a nation governed by mob rule, the absolute opposite of what our founding fathers envisioned 230 years ago.”

But it’s words like those that prompted hundreds of protesters to rally outside the university, calling Gilchrist a racist and vigilante.

“He has a history of being aligned with white power forces and racist forces throughout the U.S.,” said one protester.

“Minutemen are not a legitimate voice in the debate over immigration,” added another. “The Minutemen are a group of racist vigilantes who stand on the border with their rifles and call it open hunting season on anyone with brown skin.”

Gilchrist, however, rejected those characterizations.

“Nothing in the Minuteman model says anything about racism. We are multiethnic; I have Marvin Stewart, an American African from Long Beach with me, he’s on my board of directors,” said Gilchrist, who hugged a black man on stage to support his point.

Gilchrist's visit to Columbia is one of many he has planned at campuses across the country. He says the more controversy and protest, the better.

— Nicole Johnson
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