Chris Finarelli could barely believe his own eyes last Wednesday. As Vice President of the College Republican Club at San Francisco State University, Finarelli showed up at the student union building that morning to help table and distribute literature to solicit new club members after President Bush’s victory the previous election day. What he found was a noisy and menacing mob of over 300 Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and radical leftist students surrounding his club’s table being held back by 13 San Francisco State police officers. The police officers were forced to surround the CR’s table both in front and in back in order to protect the conservative students’ safety.
The previous Monday, the day before the election, the CR’s were physically attacked while handing out Bush/Cheney materials in the University’s Malcolm X Plaza. On that day, Victor Traycey, one of the members of the conservative club, was slapped by Nala Gardizi, an Arab woman student who was part of an entourage led by four Palestinian women who accused the conservative students of being responsible for the “murder of Palestinian babies” due to their support for President Bush. In addition, food was thrown at the Republican college students and drinks poured over the campaign materials on their table. Gardizi harangued Victor Traycey that day and even called him “a Nazi,” according to eye-witness reports.
Lee Wolf, another College Republicans member, described one of the women on Monday as shouting, “The only way we can defeat you is to kill as many as possible! I’d rather die a suicide bomber’s death than to call myself an American!” He continued, “In my opinion, these were terrorist threats.”
On Wednesday, Gardizi was back. “She was ranting that 9/11 was the fault of the United States,” according to Finarelli.
The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at S.F. State was staging this noisy demonstration on Wednesday as a follow-up to their Monday afternoon attack on the conservative students by calling for the complete removal of the Republican Club from the SFSU campus. Flyers were even distributed all over campus that bore inscriptions such as “Don’t Let the College Republicans Commit Racism and Bigotry Against Arab Women.”
Other flyers claimed that the College Republican Club was run by “bigots and racists.”
SFSU President Robert Corrigan took no action against the GUPS or individual students involved in Monday’s assault despite police eye-witnesses and even photographs of the perpetrators. Nor were the GUPS told not interfere with the ability of the College Republicans to exercise their rights of free speech. In fact, during the earlier attack on Monday, the police asked the College Republicans if they would leave rather than arresting their attackers.
“They were all around us wearing black and white keffiyahs like Arafat wears,” said Finarelli about Wednesday’s latest assault.
Derek Wray, another member of the CR’s, commented that people had been spying on meetings of the College Republicans for weeks prior to the election and questioned if what was happening had not been planned in advance to remove the conservative group from the campus. He mentioned that his chapter of the College Republicans was on one of the most radicalized campuses in America. Lee Wolfe commented that the demonstrators all had new PLO flags that were neatly folded and unused, as if they had just been brought for a specific purpose.
“We don’t even deal with the Israel/Palestinian dispute that much in our discussions and materials,” Wray said. “We don’t even have any Jewish members as far as I know, although we do promote a conservative political agenda.” Wray also told me how a female member of the College Republicans received a threat during the demonstration. “Watch what happens when the police aren’t around, b---h!” he said someone menaced.
“We’re going to the police again to ask for protection. They say they’re going to have another demonstration and drive us off campus.”
Another member of the SFSU College Republicans who was present at the demonstrations also told me he has received death threats since the incident and wished to remain anonymous out of fear.
Finarelli further described what happened: “At one point, one student jumped up on an adjacent table and shouted, ‘We’re going to gather thousands of people and show them what we’re all about!’ And then he directed a remark at a campus police officer by shouting, ‘Did you hear that, you f---ing pig!?’” Students were urged to strike by not attending classes and marched around campus seeking to increase their numbers. “But they never got into the thousands like they said they would. At least by marching they gave us a bit of a breather,” Wolf said.
Ellen Griffin, a media spokeswoman for SFSU, described Wednesday’s demonstration as an “unauthorized event” that occurred spontaneously on the campus. She also claimed the GUPS maintained they were not involved in Monday’s attack. A call by this reporter to the GUPS office on campus went unanswered. An additional call to Nala Gardizi only netted an answering machine.
Other descriptions of signs carried at the “spontaneous” event bore such inscriptions as
“Zionism is Hitler,” “Bush is Hitler,” “Racists and Murderers Off Campus,” “Republicans Off Campus,” and also “RepubliKKKans Off Campus.”
Although the GUPS were supposedly present at this demonstration and denied culpability for the earlier attacks on the CR’s, they offered no condemnation of such attacks. They were also joined by radical activists from groups like Students Against War and International Answer.
When I asked Ellen Griffin for a membership list of the GUPS to identify members by photos taken at the scene, she maintained the University does not have full membership lists of clubs on campus, only of officers. However, Finarelli maintains the University has such lists, that they are required to instate any clubs and that the GUPS have a permanent office in the student union that requires such a list to allow for entry.
Campus President Robert Corrigan has a lackluster reputation for meting out discipline to the GUPS despite an earlier attack on Jewish students during a pro-Israel rally at SFSU when the off campus city police needed to be called in to protect Jewish students and escort them to safety. Corrigan did suspend the GUPS for one year, but did not require them to relinquish their office on campus to other active campus student groups. In addition, a Jewish student, Tatiana Menaker, was equally “disciplined” by the administration for responding to her tormentors. Her punishment, as signed off on by Corrigan’s administration, was 40 hours of community service, but it stipulated that no such public service could be performed for Jewish organizations. Ellen Griffin told this reporter that Victor Traycey, one of the College Republicans, although he was slapped by Ms.Gardizi, would also be facing the same disciplinary hearing and potential punishment as his attacker despite his being the victim of a physical assault. Such disciplinary procedures can harm a student’s academic career.
Ms. Gardizi filed a police report in which she alleged she was attacked by Traycey; however, several witnesses at the scene say they saw Ms.Gardizi instigate the violence and the police report says she had to be restrained and removed by the other three Arab women who approached the table. Both Traycey and Gardizi declined to press any criminal charges.
Calls to President Corrigan and Campus Police Chief Kimberly Wible for comments were both referred to Ellen Griffin’s office.