Students protest ‘Minutemen’ leader

November 2, 2006

Simcox calls for a tighter border over demonstrators in Red Square

Chris Simcox, the founder and President of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, provoked raucous protests outside his speech in Copley Formal Lounge on Wednesday night.

In an hour-long speech, Simcox criticized the U.S. government for fighting a war in Iraq while failing to take adequate action against illegal immigration along its borders.

photo by Simone Popperl

GU Students United Against Racism led a protest in Red Square. Barricades were set up to designate the protest area. About 100 protesters circled around a stage and held signs like “The Real Minutemen Fought for Freedom.” They screamed, tooted horns and banged a water cooler.

The protest organizers, dressed in red shirts, condemned the MCDC for using violence and blasted Georgetown for allowing the Simcox to speak on campus. Denise Brennan, a Georgetown Associate Professor of Sociology, took to the stage as well.

“Debate is great. At no point, however, is there room for violence,” she said. “Advocating taking up arms and shooting human beings … is the ultimate conversation stopper.”

Georgetown helped Simcox turn “hate speech” to “free speech” by inviting him to speak, she said.

The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps says its purpose is to protect U.S. borders. It patrols border areas for illegal immigrants and reports them to the federal government. It also builds barbed wire fences on private property in these areas.

As Simcox was escorted down the center aisle of the room, the audience greeted him with scattered applause.

From the start, it was clear that the University wanted to keep the event under control. Michael Jurist (SFS ’07), the Chair of the Lecture Fund, which sponsored the event, warned against any disruptions. He said that Dr. Todd Olsen, Vice President for Student Affairs, was present to interpret the University’s free speech policy.

Three weeks ago, at Columbia University, a group of students stormed the stage at a speech by Jim Gilchrist, the leader of The Minutemen Project, an anti-immigration group which Simcox said was a separate organization from his.

Speaking in a relaxed, informal style over the shouts of protesters that permeated through the windows, Simcox said he started the group in Arizona in 2002 because the federal government was failing to protect the border. His group practiced extreme measures in order to attract media attention to illegal immigration.

He blames Mexico’s government as well.

“Why can’t Mexico, the richest country in Latin America, provide economic development for its people?” he asked.

Protesters said they condemned the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp because its members are armed. Simcox, however, said patrolmen carry guns because the border is dangerous. They have never fired at border crossers, he said.

“This border watch group is nothing more than a neighborhood watch group … we sit in lawn chairs with binoculars and cell phones and radios …” he said.

A fire alarm went off less than five minutes into his speech. The audience was told to stay in their seats. Simcox was unfazed and calmly continued after the problem was resolved.

Simcox, who used to teach at a private school where he was the chair of a diversity committee, drew an angry response from several students during the question-and-answer session following the speech. One student criticized him for comparing a lack of enforcement of immigration law to affirmative action.

“Some people get a free pass from the law,” he said.

Some students, including Eric Rodawig (COL ’07), were supportive of the speaker.

“I think the Minutemen Group is doing a service to the country … The border patrol hasn’t been protecting the country well,” he said.

As the audience exited the building into Red Square, they were greeted by protesters screaming “Racism and fascism is ridiculous, my Georgetown is better than this!”

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[…] their remarks. The tactics employed have included shouting down the speaker during the event, pulling the fire alarm, and (yes, […]