Student Protest Shuts Down the Minutemen at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA – Chanting, “What do we want? Legalization! When do we want it? Now!” a group of over 200 University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) students and community members gathered outside of a campus lecture hall where Carl Braun, executive director of the California Minutemen Civil Defense Corps was scheduled to speak, Feb. 6.
The rally was organized by members of UCLA’s Moviemento Estudantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) chapter, the Association of Raza Graduate Students and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) along with a number of other student and community groups. It had originally been called to denounce the vigilante Minutemen and protest the presence of their statewide leader at the university. As news of the protest spread, the university administration – clearly fearing a repeat of the incident that took place at Columbia University last fall, where a group of students disrupted a talk by the Minutemen and ultimately forced them to leave – cancelled Braun’s invitation, citing security concerns.
While the right wing on campus has attempted to label the events of the evening as a violation of the Minutemen’s rights, the protesters emphasized that this was not an issue of ‘freedom of speech.’ Demonstrators from the whole range of participating groups were clear: They were not denouncing a mere opinion group.
“It’s a human rights violation, what these people are doing,” said Cynthia Flores of UCLA MEChA. “If [the Minutemen] aren’t assassins, I don’t know what they are.” Erika Coronado, from the Raza Graduate Student Association, described the Minutemen as paramilitaries. “We know that this organization is the ignorant byproduct of a greater power structure that seeks to exploit our people, that benefits from seeing our people earning miserias, earning crumbs. And still they deport us, and still they separate our families? No. We will not stand for that. We are on our land and we will not be kicked off,” Coronado said.
“Fascist scapegoating is not up for academic discussion,” read a statement about the event by the UCLA SDS chapter. “Like Hitler in pre-Nazi Germany, the Minutemen attempt to demonize foreign-born poor people, blaming ‘illegals’ for society’s problems.”
Between the speeches, many took up the chant of, “We didn’t cross the border – the border crossed us!”
The general mood at the rally was one of victory. Organizers felt that by organizing a protest they were able to prevent a man who is considered by many to be morally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of undocumented workers from spreading his message on their campus.