Thursday, September 27, 2007

Covering Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Student videos like this show a "new journalism" take on student viewpoints at rallies outside the New York speech of Mahmoud the Mouth. More can be seen here.

Meet Josef, Mikki, Matthew and Fatemeh, four different faces of students protesting, and listen to some Hebrew singing and accordion and banjo playing.

The Security of Free Speech
Almost one year ago, student protesters stormed the stage in Columbia’s Roone Arledge Auditorium when controversial Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist took the podium to speak.

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the even more controversial president of Iran, took the same stage Monday, Columbia was better prepared. Uniformed police officers, intelligence officers, Secret Service, and the FBI monitored campus and the surrounding streets. Silver barriers lined Broadway Avenue between 113th and 116th streets, and 114th Street was closed to cars.

The protesters—police estimated 1,000 total—clustered at Columbia’s main gate on 116th Street and Broadway Avenue. A man flew Israel’s flag on his back. Taxis and a Fresh Direct truck beeped as they drove slowly by a “Honk if you hate terrorists” sign. Police officers stood ready with billy clubs tucked into their belts

Students approaching the main gate had to elbow their way through a forest of signs and dodge the pamphlets thrust at them. An officer with a bullhorn bellowed, “Show your ID card.” Associate Vice President for Public Safety Jim McShane sent a campus-wide e-mail last Friday warning that entry would be restricted to those with a Columbia ID.

Raphael Levy, a junior, said the event was more exciting than annoying. “I tried to stay away from the mob,” he said. But he did join other students who packed the ledge overlooking 116th street, staring at the protesters below. “I heard people got into fights,” he said, although he hadn’t seen any himself. Police said there were no arrests.

Ahmadinejad’s visit was notable not just for what he said but also for the ease with which he said it. The wheels of free speech were oiled by NYPD Intel and Secret Service in their shiny black suits, by police officers with billy clubs, and by Columbia officials shutting the gates to anyone without a University ID.

(hat tip to Candice Hughes for the link.)

No comments: