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Protesters dog Minutemen leader

By Mike Corwin and Ariella Cohen | April 20, 2007 | Page 15

MINUTEMEN LEADER Chris Simcox was dogged by protesters in Texas and New York City this month as immigrant rights activists organized to challenge the racist vigilante.

-- The April 10 showdown with Simcox in Austin, Texas, followed a march and rally of 700 organized by the Austin Immigrants Rights Coalition to mark the anniversary of the city's first mass demonstration for immigrants.

Speakers at the rally denounced the crackdown on immigrant communities over the last year, and bills under consideration in Texas that would deny birthright citizenship to children born in the U.S. Other speakers addressed the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center near Austin, a "mother-child" prison that has been the subject of an activist campaign.

Later, a group of students and activists--many coming straight from the big march downtown--protested a speech at the University of Texas (UT) by Simcox, the head of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. The speech was hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), which in 2005 united the UT community in outrage with its plans for a mock "immigrant hunt."

This time, when the YCT brought the real immigrant hunters to speak to an audience of 20 supporters, some 40 people crashed the event to denounce racist vigilantism. University police, on hand to protect the vigilantes' "free speech," forcibly ejected a number of protesters--and arrested a 65-year woman with severe arthritis, who was charged with trespassing and spent the night in jail.

-- In San Antonio the next day, Simcox faced a protest of 750 students at UT-San Antonio, who chanted throughout his speech. "He's racist," Justin Felux, a member of the group that organized the protest, told reporters. "It's a continuation of the Ku Klux Klan border watch in the 1970s."

-- In New York City a few days earlier, Simcox got a hot reception at New York University. Invited to speak April 9 by the NYU College Republican Club as a follow-up to their "hunt an illegal" game, Simcox encountered 150 protesters organized by the NYU Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

The spirited demonstration slowed traffic into the event. Inside, dozens of students stood up and turned their back to express their disagreement. They chanted and stomped their feet--much like what happened at Columbia University when ousted Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist spoke in October of last year.

"I am here to give voice to the message that this action is unacceptable," Hyacinth Blanchard of UAW Local 2110 said of the College Republican event. "So much of our society remains silent. Discontent is our right. We must keep the pro-immigrant message in the public eye. I'm here to say that racism is something that is not good for anyone, anywhere."

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