MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Hundreds of protesters clashed with alt-right media personality Mike Cernovich during his Monday night talk hosted by Columbia University College Republicans.
The protests began with a march at W. 124th Street and Morningside Avenue and culminated when demonstrators broke past the security barricades and into the lobby of Lerner Hall. The heavy security presence prevented them from entering the room where Cernovich was speaking.
Cernovich, the alt-right figure and self-proclaimed “national security reporter,” made his claim to fame through his Danger and Play website and for his promotion of conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, which alleged that the Democratic Party was involved in a child sex ring.
During the event, students who gained access through event tickets hissed and jeered when Cernovich approached the mic with several protesters holding up signs denouncing his contentious stances.
“I can’t advocate to shut down their freedom of speech, but I don’t like that they’re here,” Mistee Denson, a Columbia social work student and one of the organizers of the protest, said of the speaker series. “I believe strongly that if Columbia makes a decision to allow them here, they should also make a very loud statement that they don’t agree with these speakers.”
Instead, Columbia began investigations of nearly 20 students who protested another far-right speaker in the series, Tommy Robinson, earlier this month.
According to one of the investigated students, freshman Isaiah Hines, the university has banned him from attending all events hosted by the CUCR — despite the fact that the investigation was dropped on Monday. “There’s no due process,” Hines said. "[Columbia University President Lee] Bolliger can do whatever he wants to us.”
A representative with Columbia did not respond to requests for comment).
“Black and brown students are Bollinger’s intellectual experiments,” Hines added. “He gets off on us defending our humanity, but it’s not a game to us. It’s our lives.”
“Columbia tries to put on this facade of liberalism, but we’ve just already seen with Tommy Robinson that they’re willing to ban students who speak up,” said Alimatou Demba, a freshman at the university.
“Bollinger’s free speech only goes one way,” Demba added. “It’s interesting because he’s a whole ass white man, and this stuff doesn’t target him.”
protesters pushed thru campus security gate, in lobby of Lerner now pic.twitter.com/bacUGHwuLF— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) October 31, 2017
Cernovich was the third speaker in the club’s October speaker series, following former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain on Oct. 17 and Robinson on Oct 10.
Cernovich’s remarks revolved around the rise of “alternative media,” as he denounced mainstream media outlets including CNN and Politico for inaccurate reporting. He added that the current distrust with traditional media has given success to other forms of news outlets, like social media and himself. The event was often derailed with name-calling and tangents from both sides, with Cernovich being referred to as a Nazi and white supremacist and him referring to the protesters as “slimy losers” and “feral animals...without rational thought or...impulse control.”
After delivering his presentation, Cernovich opened the floor up to a Q&A session where he was challenged about his claims that diversity calls for the elimination of white males, heckled for his involvement with Pizzagate, and questioned about his success thus far.
“I realized that I don’t have readers, I have sources. I have sources all over because they had read me forever,” Cernovich explained of his early success. “The best talent you can have is learning how to be a good friend. A lot of people hate me, but I don’t focus on people who hate me. I focus on people who like me and value my message.”
For all political discord over the event, there was only one arrest.
Police said that Arvind Dilawar, a 30-year-old Brooklyn man, was arrested Monday night and charged with robbery and criminal possession of stolen property for stealing someone’s cellphone. It was unclear if he was part of the protest or there to hear Cernovich.
Anger with the university’s leadership wasn’t limited to current students.
Anne Jaclard, who graduated from Barnard in 1967, said she was furious the same university that once brought Malcolm X to campus—a speech she says she helped organize in 1965—was now offering a platform to “respectable fascists.”
“Fifty-nine years ago we thought we were changing all this; we really thought another world was possible, and that it was coming,” she said. “Now we’ve got a Republican party that publicly includes Nazis.”
With additional reporting by Jake Offenhartz.