Protest is alive and well at Columbia, though it's still a far cry from 1968. Yesterday evening, Jim Gilchrist, head of the Minutemen, the "citizens' vigilance operation" that patrols the Mexican border in California, was invited to speak at Columbia University. But pretty much as soon as he got on stage, a group of student got on stage and protested - and then all hell broke loose. The Bwog liveblogged the event, and here's an excerpt:

Finally the Minuteman himself enters. "Now who're you calling racist?" he shouts, putting his arm around [Minutemen boardmember Marvin] Stewart, who is black. "I love the First Amendment. As soon as you graduate, you'll all be investment bankers. I've been where you at. I know you hate yourselves."

Update 9:00 pm: BWOG IS SHOCKED. STUDENTS WITH A BIG YELLOW SIGN JUST CAME ONTO THE STAGE. The sign says, "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!"

There was at least two minutes of chaos between students, other students and the Minutemen. Bwog took cover.

security Update: 9:01 pm: Security comes out, now the curtain is down. Students are still chanting, now everyone's filing out.

Update: 9:15 pm: Students outside shouting, "They say, 'get bent,' we say, 'let's fight!'"

Now, although initial reports were that Columbia's Chicano Caucus was behind the on-stage protest, they denied any responsibility (clarifying that they did organize the one outside the hall) for the "actions that led to the termination of the event." And they support free speech. The Columbia Spectator reports that students from the International Socialist Organization were behind the stage rush, and the Bwog had this statement from "Those who occupied the stage":

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.

The president of Columbia's College Republicans, junior Chris Kulawik, told the Daily News, "It was quite embarrassing as a Columbia student."

CTV News has video footage:

Photographs from the Bwog