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Activists protest Minutemen leader's speech

May 19, 2008 8:49:37 PM PDT
Immigration rights activists demonstrated Monday night at DePaul University. They're upset that a student group invited the co-founder of the organization trying to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally.

The activists staged a 24-hour vigil on campus.

Protesters said they are in favor of free speech on the DePaul campuses but they call the address hate speech. The co-founder of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps spoke at 7 p.m.

The protesters carried signs that said "The Minutemen are not welcome" and "the new KKK." Hundreds of immigration activists took over four corners of Depaul University's campus, all angry because one man is being given a platform.

"For him here, it's just promoting hate. This whole group, this whole Minutemen group is about hate," said Amanda Melesio, immigration activist.

Simcox was asked if he understood why his presence was so controversial.

"I think it's part of the agenda of the open borders lobby and those who want amnesty for up to 20 million to 30 million people in this country," he responded.

His group calls for stricter border security with Mexico. Immigration activists called the Minutemen racist border vigilantes.

Many curious students say it's been a valuable civics lesson.

"I think it's been great for DePaul. DePaul is about diversity and exchanging ideas and talking about controversial issues," said Judy Shammo, DePaul sophomore.

After Simcox spoke to an audience of about 200, DePaul University professor of religious studies, Charles Strain, gave a counter point of view and said he wanted to make it clear to the audience that Simcox's ideas directly contradict the core values of Depaul University and, in fact, called the Minutemen a detriment of solving the problem of immigration reform.

Protesters say they were up all night and all day. But immigration activists said they remained energized, camping out overnight on the entrance of St. Vincent DePaul Church. It was a 24-hour prayer vigil to protest the speech by Cris Simcox, Minutemen founder.

"We are here to promote peace and to promote the truth, to let people know who this is. They made a mistake," said Enrique Morones, Border Angels.

Activists marched all the way from Little Village to the DePaul campus Sunday night. While only a handful remained Monday afternoon, more protestors arrived outside the speech and stayed until at least 10 p.m., well after Simcox spoke.

"I hope it doesn't become a riot. I honestly can't speak for everybody else. I hope it is as peaceful as it can be. We want to make our message that he is not welcome on campus," said Leticia Garcia, DePaul student.

The Illinois Minutemen Project says it is not against immigrants but does oppose people breaking the law to come into the U.S.

The DePaul Conservative Alliance, which organized the speech, said they are outraged that the university is making the group pay $2,500 for extra security.

"The recommendation of $2,500 is close to bankrupting us. I personally believe it is a dirty trick," said Nick Paskiewcz, DePaul Conservative Alliance.

The speech was closed to the media and to the public. Only DePaul students were allowed in.

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