EAST LANSING – A stack of documents nearly five inches thick, obtained under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, has been provided to Between the Lines. The hundreds of pages show a consistent concern about Young Americans for Freedom by Michigan State University administrators stretching back to the fall of 2006.
In addition, the internal documents show numerous debates on how to handle the listing of YAF as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – a non-profit civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Ala.
Most telling, however, were the numerous documents showing that MSU police and public safety officials were aware of concerns that Minutemen Civil Defense Corps leader Chris Simcox had been convicted of federal weapons charges – as had master of ceremonies and Texas attorney Jason VanDyke. The internal documents show nothing more than notes indicating knowledge of the convictions, but no indication of investigation.
In addition, the documents revealed:
* A group of nine unidentified persons or groups filed a formal complaint against Young Americans for Freedom with the university’s judicial system. The nine-page complaint cites ethnic intimidation, racism, discrimination on the basis of religion, race, and political belief, homophobic and transphobic activities by the group, and failure of the group to follow student organization rules and regulations.
* Police chief Jim Dunlap “concedes” in an e-mail that officers may have told protestors the event was being shut down – a major complaint from protestors who claim they were lied to by police when they were told the event was being shut down and everyone was being asked to leave. Once those identified as protestors had been cleared from the building, Simcox was allowed to continue speaking to a group of about 60 white people gathered in the room.
* Documents also reveal Craig Burghers, a leader of the National Young Americans for Freedom board and a field organizer for The Leadership Institute in Virginia, was involved in coordinating the appearance of Simcox at MSU, including arranging hotel accommodations for Simcox. National YAF issued a letter, which it also ran as an advertisement in The State News, MSU’s student daily newspaper, claiming that MSU YAF was not racist and had no ties to hate groups.
The university – and in turn, Michigan taxpayers – had to foot the bill of $3,780 to rent metal detectors from Ohio for use at the entrance to the April 19 speech given by Chris Simcox. Taxpayers also picked up the tab to pay for police protection for the event.
* According to the papers, one anti-Simcox protestor received an unsolicited e-mail from Simcox days before the event, which included a picture of a bloodied and dead Mexican – allegedly an illegal immigrant. The unidentified student requested the administration act on this, but administrators did nothing, according to the files.
* The documents show that after the March announcement that MSU YAF would be listed as a hate group by the SPLC, MSU administrators decided not to invite the SPLC to campus this coming fall to present a speech on cold cases and hate crimes. While this decision was being made, MSU administrator officials were telling media that MSU encouraged free speech and the exchange of ideas.
* Files also reveal that following a protest against Republican presidential candidate and Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, the e-mail of MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon was flooded with e-mails from around the country. The documents specifically cite police sources denying that a pregnant woman was assaulted during the Tancredo event – as has been widely reported and claimed by MSU YAF chairman Kyle Bristow.