Local News

UNC student protestors walk out of Tancredo speech

Posted April 26, 2010 10:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2010 8:43 a.m. EDT

— Student groups on Monday protested a second speech by former Congressman Tom Tancredo,  an outspoken critic of current immigration policies, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Students for a Democratic Society and Feminist Students United protested Tancredo's speech, entitled "Why Western Civilization is Worth Saving."

Almost nine minutes into Tancredo's speech for the student group Youth for Western Civilization, a majority of the audience walked out of the Student Union auditorium.

Youth for Western Civilization opposes what it calls mass immigration and radical multiculturalism. The student protesters say the group promotes hate speech that should not be tolerated.

“I don't think Tom Tancredo has a right to speak on a campus. He doesn't have a right to speak anywhere,” student protester Ben Carroll said.

After the walk out, more than 100 students took the protest outside to The Pit.

“I know the gist of it (his speech). The theme is the same every time,” student protestor Ellen Louis said of why she didn't listen to all of Tancredo's speech.

"I think what we're saying is his actions have consequences and the consequence is racism,” Carroll said.

As the silent protesters were leaving the auditorium, Tancredo veered from his planned remarks to address the move.

“It is a great example of what I’m talking about here really. The fear of ideas. The fear of hearing somebody you disagree with,” Tancredo said. “I’m glad they show what they really do believe in, and that is censorship, and that is a rejection of the ability for anybody else to give their point of view."

Tancredo's appearance lasted about an hour and a half. Afterwards, Chancellor Holden Thorp released a statement.

“I am glad that Tom Tancredo made his presentation and could take questions from the audience. I also applaud the protesters, including students and members of the campus community, who expressed themselves peacefully, in keeping with the university’s traditions," Thorp stated.

A UNC student was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in the lobby outside the auditorium where Tancredo was speaking. The student's name was not released.

Last April, Students for a Democratic Society organized protests during speeches by Tancredo and Virgil Goode, a former independent Virginia state representative, at Youth for Western Civilization events.

Protesters disrupted Tancredo's speech by shouting profanities and unfurling banners, and police had to use pepper spray after demonstrators broke a window. A UNC student was also arrested at that protest, but charges of disorderly conduct against her were dropped.