State News

Second immigration talk meets few problems at UNC

Posted April 22, 2009 9:16 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2009 11:54 p.m. EDT

— A second speech at the University of North Carolina which featured a vocal opponent of illegal immigration was completed with less disruption than a similar effort a week ago.

Former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode appeared at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Wednesday night. There was some jeering and sarcastic cheering as he began to speak. A school official then told the audience that any student attempting to disrupt the speech would be removed from the auditorium.

"Those that have the enthusiasm to yell and cheer, we will give them an opportunity to ask a question or say something,” Goode said.

Police arrested six people on charges of disorderly conduct, and removed some sort of noise-making device that went off during Goode's remarks.

“The speaker tonight was able to express his views and have a give-and-take with his audience. I regret that six protesters had to be arrested, but they gave us no choice. They ignored our warnings, and their disruptive behavior was completely at odds with what we expect at Carolina," Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement.

Last week, protesters disrupted Tom Tancredo's speech by shouting profanities and unfurling banners as the former Colorado congressman tried to address the audience in Bingham Hall. Police eventually halted his speech and had to use pepper spray after demonstrators broke a window.

"I knew we were going to have a little bit of a crowd, but I had no idea it would be shut down completely,” said Riley Matheson, president of the group that invited Tancredo to campus.

This time, the protest outside was more peaceful.

"There are immigrants who struggle everyday,” said Carlyn Cowen, a UNC senior.

While Cowen did not agree with Goode's opinions, she said she felt he had a right to voice them.

"We are absolutely letting him say what he is saying,” Cowen said.

"I feel we should be in there shutting this down,” said Safiyyah Hassan, a UNC freshman.

Hassan called Goode's message a hate speech that should not be tolerated.

"I think we could have stood up and fought more than what we did,” Hassan said.

Goode thanked police for maintaining control during his speech.

"It may not have been 100 percent civil, but order was maintained throughout the evening,” Goode said.

About 150 people attended the lecture, and Goode took questions from audience members for about 90 minutes.