Protesting Negros had to be pepper sprayed to be brought under control Wednesday night at Dillard University as they protested the appearance of David Duke on campus.
David Duke is an advocate for the rights of European-Americans. Nonetheless, he’s generally tagged as a white supremacist. His short stint as a youth as Grand Dragon of a KKK group is always pushed on him as a smear.
A raucous group of Dillard University students and supporters Wednesday night stormed the outside of a Dillard auditorium where ex-Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and other contenders for Louisiana’s U.S. Senate seat were holding a televised debate.
Tensions were high as critics decried the fact that a white nationalist was using a historically black university as a platform for his views.
A smaller group of students pleaded with their classmates to ignore Duke, a figure they said was undeserving of any sort of spotlight.
At least four people were detained by campus police but later released. Other students and alumni were pepper-sprayed as they tried to forcibly enter the building where Duke would take the stage.
“My eyes are burning,” Malvin Abbott said shortly after he was sprayed in the face.
Still, he and other students tried to enter the closed debate because “we as university students pay for that building,” he said.
After barely clearing the requirement for participation, Duke on Wednesday joined five other candidates at Dillard’s Georges Auditorium for the final televised debate before Tuesday’s Senate primary.
He was the favorite of just more than 5 percent of registered voters in a poll commissioned by Raycom Media earlier this month — and clearing that bar meant he was invited by the debate organizers to participate. Dillard officials were not involved in that decision.
Raycom operates WVUE-TV, the local television station that rented space at Dillard and hosted the debate.
Leading the poll were John Kennedy, the Republican state treasurer, and Foster Campbell, a Democratic member of the state Public Service Commission. Others polling ahead of Duke and participating Wednesday were Caroline Fayard, a Democratic lawyer from New Orleans; U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden.
Dillard officials have said they did not know before they agreed to provide a hall for the debate who would be invited to participate, and the university does not endorse any Senate candidate.
Duke, now 66, was elected grand dragon and later grand wizard of Louisiana’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1970s. He has said he left the group because he was fed up with some Klan branches’ continued violent outbursts against minorities, though his departure also came after he reportedly offered to sell his membership rolls to another Klan leader for thousands of dollars.
He won a single term in the Louisiana House from Metairie in 1989, his lone political victory in decades of trying.
He was sentenced to 15 months of federal prison in 2003 for cheating his supporters out of cash and not paying taxes.
Dillard President Walter Kimbrough last week discouraged any sort of protest against Duke, saying the man doesn’t need the extra attention. He has accused Raycom of manipulating the poll results to ensure that Duke would qualify and boost TV ratings.
But Kimbrough’s call to ignore Duke was disregarded by many Wednesday, as a crowd of students gathered outside of Georges Auditorium to protest Duke’s arrival days after they asked Kimbrough to let them view the debate in the building where it was held.
“Our main focus was getting him not to come. Or, if he did come, let our demands be met,” said Dillard senior Brunisha Jones. “But we soon realized that we had a whole other issue: that our administration would not listen to us.”
ones and her peers received the support of Campbell, the Senate candidate, who sent an email blast Tuesday calling it “downright offensive” that Duke was allowed in the auditorium but that students wouldn’t be.
Outside the building Wednesday, Dillard students were joined by students from Loyola University, Tulane University and Xavier University, as well as members of the Take ‘Em Down NOLA coalition, which has called for the removal of city monuments to Confederate leaders.
“No Duke. No KKK. No Fascist USA,” yelled Malcolm Suber of Take ‘Em Down.
The swarm of students repeated that chant and several others.
Some in the crowd, though mostly focused on Duke, also condemned another candidate for political office: GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Jones and Dillard senior Jasmine Battee tied Duke’s popularity among Louisiana voters to Trump’s rise, citing recent revelations that The Crusader, one of the KKK’s leading publications, has endorsed Trump.