Churchill fires backThu Feb 10, 2005 04:4064.140.158.8
Churchill fires back
CU professor says 9/11 words weren’t referring to bystanders, firefighters, others
By Pierrette J. Shields
The Daily Times-Call 2/9/05
University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill receives a hug from Russell Means while standing onstage with supporters from the American Indian Movement at the University Memorial Center in Boulder on Tuesday night. Means, an indigenous rights and constitutional rights activist involved with the American Indian Movement, introduced the professor.Times-Call/Josh Buck
BOULDER — Escorted by heavy security provided by the American Indian Movement, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill defended his opinions and challenged detractors — including the governor — in a speech at the Boulder campus Tuesday night.
He made clear he would not back off the words he used in his 2001 essay “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” in which he called some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns.” Adolf Eichmann is credited as the architect of the Holocaust.
Gov. Bill Owens and several legislators have called for Churchill’s resignation or dismissal. The college’s Board of Regents last week approved a plan by CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano to investigate Churchill’s body of work to determine if the university has cause to fire him. DiStefano said last week his options are to recommend discipline or dismissal, or choose to do nothing.
But Churchill remained steadfast.
“I will not back off an inch,” Churchill said. “I owe no one an apology.”
He said when he used the phrase “little Eichmanns,” he was referring to technology and business workers in the trade centers, which he said is clear in the context of the essay, not the bystanders, firefighters, janitors and others who don’t fall into the category of being a “technician of Empire.”
Churchill and his supporters filed an injunction to force CU officials to allow Churchill to speak, despite an earlier cancellation of the scheduled talk for security reasons. CU rescheduled the speech in the face of the federal court filing.
Churchill said he is protected by regents’ laws on academic freedom for professors and has a right to free speech.
“The board of regents should do its job and let me do mine,” Churchill said.
He also scoffed at the idea that his salary was funded by taxpayers. He estimated that only 7 percent of his salary is paid for with taxpayer dollars, while 80 percent comes from student tuition.
“I do not work for the taxpayers of the state of Colorado; I do not work for Bill Owens,” he said. “I work for you.”
More than a thousand people crammed into the Glenn Miller Ballroom at the University Memorial Center to hear Churchill outline his opinion on how U.S. foreign policy has caused many in the world to hate Americans to the point of retaliation, as happened with the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Naturally and inevitably, what you put out will blow back on you and that is what happened,” he said.
Few detractors attended the talk, with a majority of the house standing to applaud his comments and those of other supporters, such as American Indian Movement activist Russell Means.
Security was tight and included uniformed police officers, university security officers and security provided by AIM. Metal detectors were used to search the crowd on the way in.
Means defended Churchill’s Native American heritage, which has been cast in doubt by local media outlets in the last week.
“I want to first apprise you we are the only ethnic group in the world that has to prove our degree of blood, like dogs or like horses,” Means said, adding later that “Ward Churchill is a full-blooded Indian leader.”
Means also said the regents should back Churchill’s academic credentials, citing the numerous volumes the former chairman of the CU Ethnic Studies department has written.
“I know the regents aren’t going to get through them all, those cowards,” Means said. “Those cowards that can’t stand up for women and can’t stand up for their own professors.”
At one point, Isaiah Lechowit of the CU College Republicans asked if students who are studying to work in technology or business jobs like those in the trade centers were “little Eichmanns.” Churchill said that anyone who supports the government system through labor while reaping its benefits without fighting to change the system falls into the now-notorious category. He said he himself was no innocent because he has not changed the system.
CU student Creyton Harris, a sophomore business major wearing a T-shirt reading “Hippies Smell,” said he wanted to give Churchill a chance. Given his major, he said, “I guess I am a little Eichmann.”
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Times-Call reporter Mikenna Clokey contributed to this report.
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