MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — A group of around fifty Columbia University students and professors gathered outside the Low Library on Thursday night to denounce the scheduled appearances of far-right activist Tommy Robinson and alt-right media personality Mike Cernovich at a campus speaker series later this month.
Columbia Republicans recently released their October speakers schedule that features a Skype call with Tommy Robinson, the former leader of a far-right protest movement in the United Kingdom next week, and a sit-down with Mike Cernovich, an alt-right media personality who fueled the Pizzagate conspiracy — the debunked narrative that members of the Democratic Party were involved in a child-sex ring — on October 30.
While the speaker series also features former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, the protesters are calling for the events featuring Robinson and Cernovich to be cancelled, citing their "white nationalist and white supremacist" beliefs.
Ty Christen Joseph, a student activist studying social work, said the events supported bigotry and would spread hate throughout the campus.
"Everybody has free speech, but some people's speech equals the death of other people," Joseph said. "Some people are paying for that speech, a lot of people paid for that with their lives and their ability to sustain themselves."
Joseph was joined by several other student speakers and some professors during the protest where participants held signs of "Black Lives Matter" and "No White Supremacy @ Columbia" and formed a human circle.
Shakira Kennedy, an adjunct professor with Columbia's School of Social Work, took her students to the protest, after it was brought up during one of her classes.
"Everything that we've been reading about in class, people are talking about here so it's a good experiential learning for them," Kennedy said.
Mark Seddon, a visiting lecturer teaching at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, said he saw an advertisement on a campus elevator and stopped by the protest to inform students of Robinson's past.
"In my view, he's way out there on the nationalist right. He's islamophobic, essentially racist, and a man with a violent past," Seddon said. "So people should know who he is and his views certainly need to be challenged."
Students have also scheduled a second protest to coincide with Robinson's arrival on October 10. Protestors are planning to meet at Broadway and West 125th Street at 6 p.m. and march to Columbia.