Monday, September 24, 2007
So the President of Iran is at Columbia giving a speech, so I sauntered over during lunch time to check it out, mostly to see the "free speech zones". Coming down Broadway, I could see a group of anti-Zionist Hasidim and a group of Zionist Jews engaging in a full-out shouting match. The Hasidim, holding signs declaiming the spread of "atheist" Zionism, were being taunted by American Jews waving Israeli and American flags. On my first stop by the kerfuffle, an older man in a Polo shirt was screaming "I saw him eat pork!" and "His mother was impregnated by Hitler!" at an older Hasidic guy. I checked out the on-campus viewing, which was huge and calm, and listened to the end of Ahmadinejad's speech and the beginning of the Q&A. On my way back to work, I stopped by again to see if the whole thing had resulted in fisticuffs, which, unfortunately dear readers, seemed imminent. On the way back the protesters from Yeshiva University had found the group, who identified themselves as "The Defenders of the City". An upset middle-aged woman started screaming, "They are worse than the Arabs!" and started jabbing her American flag into select recipients. Columbia students who I had seen inside came out and unfurled their banners in front of the Hasidim, trying to block anyone's view of their signs. A group of high school girls started yelling at one of them, saying "Where are we supposed to go?" At this point it seemed pretty likely that violence would ensue. But then, the Hasidim started chanting something, the other people started singing something else, and the police swooped in and separated everyone. Pretty intense for a lunch break.