William Gheen, Americans for Legal Immigration (Alipac), April 14, 2009
[View the videos of the disruption of Rep. Tancredo’s talk here.]
Tonight, I traveled to UNC Chapel Hill to hear retired Congressman Tom Tancredo speak about why he opposes the Dream Act Amnesty and in-state tuition for illegals. His views are representative of the vast majority of Americans on these issues as illustrated by numerous polls.
I never got to hear Congressman Tancredo speak, neither did the thirty plus other people who gathered in room 103 in Bingham Hall.
I was running late to the event, which was to start at 6:30pm. I arrived around 6:45 and as I entered Bingham Hall, I immediately pulled out my video camera to film the conflict between pro-illegal alien protesters and police outside door of the meeting room.
The meeting room had become packed, as protesters filled the seats in the back of the room. Police refused to let anymore protesters enter for safety reasons and when they did that, the pro-illegal alien protesters made physical contact with the officers.
Officers deployed pepper spray and activated a hand held taser, although they did not use it on anyone.
I briefly filmed the altercation and then entered the room to find Congressman Tancredo sitting at the front of the room calmly. Those who had come to hear him speak had dismayed, worried, and agitated looks on their faces because the illegal alien supporters were intent upon trying to disrupt the meeting and prevent him from speaking by shouting obscenities, screaming “racist”, and chanting.
Most of the protesters were younger and many were from the UNC campus Hispanic groups. Among their ranks were some students that had a style of dress and hair styles similar to many of the anarchist groups seen around campuses.
I entered and greeted Tom and then I went to find a seat but found the braying protesters to be highly disrespectful and anti-American in their attempts to suppress free speech in the room.
So I raised my voice and asked them to calm down. It took them by surprise for a second, but I explained that this was America and that free speech cannot be attacked using mob rule tactics. When I explained that UNC was my Alma matter and that their actions here would reflect poorly on the University, things calmed down for a few minutes.
Some Hispanic students came up to the front and said that this affects them and that they want to be heard too.
Congressman Tancredo was so polite and so tolerant. He told them that he would certainly let them speak as long as they showed him the same respect. He told the crowd that they could certainly shout him down and stop him from speaking if they chose, but that many had gathered to hear him and that he wanted to proceed.
While things were calming down in the meeting room, you could hear protesters out in the hallways being held at bay by police and they were banging on drums or something similar to try and create enough noise to disrupt the meeting.
There were some older adults in the ranks of the protesters near the back of the room who appeared to be the ring leaders. I hope that we can identify them from the videos to determine if they are UNC employees or merely old school leftist radicals from outside of the campus.
As Congressman Tancredo started speaking, two anarchist looking girls stood up and unfolded a long banner that read “No One Is Illegal” and many in the crowd sighed and said come on now. Tancredo said that signs were fine and he tried to continue.
Then after a few seconds the two girls winked at each other to give the signal and they moved directly in front of Tancredo putting the sign up physically on his face. Tom tried to pull the sign out of his way and while that altercation took place, the large glass window to the right of Tancredo was shattered by protesters outside of the building.
Luckily, there was a blind in place but the glass did rain down on two students who were there to hear Mr. Tancredo speak.
Police rushed in and the event organizers rushed Congressman Tancredo out of the room. The campus security said the event was over, yet I asked them to secure the building and let it go on. I explained that a broken window was of little cost compared to the value of free speech in America and that the university was setting a dangerous precedent by allowing protesters to silence any view with a broken window.
The security officer in charge understood what I was saying but it became clear that his officers did not have control of the building nor the grounds around the building.
Supporters and protesters alike began to file out of the room. One of the protesters tried to ram his shoulder into me as he passed me, but I did not engage him because I was filming what was happening and telling the protesters that they were not the first group to smash out windows of those they hated.
I kept looking at that broken window and images of bricks thrown through the windows of black families and black churches ran through my mind along with images of Jewish store fronts shattered by the Hitler youth.
As we were all leaving the room the protesters set off the fire alarm in the building and they regrouped outside to march with their banners outside of the building in front of many onlookers.
I looked around but could not find any of the event organizers or people I knew. I filmed for a few minutes and went to the side of the building.
About six people in different groups thanked me for coming and trying to settle the protesters down and secure the meeting.
Three black girls who appeared to be students were talking next to me as I spoke to a couple who shook my hand. I told these students that I was ashamed that in my nation there were people willing to destroy free speech by using violence like this.
One of the black girls looked at me, with what felt like sheer hatred and she said, “I’m not from this country. You can have it!”
So many students are turned down by UNC Chapel Hill each year. I remember how proud and excited my family was when I was admitted as a Freshman in 1987. I was one of only four people from my High School that got in that year. So tell me, why is this top University in America have seats filled with foreigners who hate America?
I walked to the offices of the student newspaper, the Daily Tarheel. I met with a reporter there and told him what happened. I told him I wanted it known how embarrassed I was for my old University and how shameful it was that groups in such a place of higher learning were willing to use mob rule tactics like violence, assault, and destruction of property to silence those they disagree with. It certainly does not sound like “diversity” to me.
I also told the student paper that we would be very interested in the UNC administration’s response to this incident. I explained that if UNC was a breeding ground for this kind of violent and anti-American radicalism, then our education system has truly failed and NC taxpayers should have that in mind during the legislative budgeting process.
I have returned home to Raleigh, NC now and aside from a few whiffs of pepper spray, I am physically fine. But the hatred, aggression and violence that I saw today at UNC Chapel Hill was a real eye opener. These illegal aliens and their supporters have no respect for the freedoms and principles once so cherished in the United States.
UNC Chapel Hill and the surrounding towns in Orange, County are known as the most liberal areas in my home state. While I know that most American students at UNC will not approve of what the protesters did, I can’t help but wonder how much the local liberal politics of Chapel Hill contributed to the enraged mob that lashed out today.
Long ago, I was once a fashionably liberal young freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill myself and my personal experiences tell me that many of those in the violent mob tonight have been both misinformed and heavily indoctrinated.
The illegal aliens and their supporters had big smiles on their faces after the building was damaged, the false fire alarm was triggered, and Tancredo had left the area. You could clearly see they were jubilant and feeling victorious, as if their suppression of free speech and uncivilized conduct had won them some great victory.
This was no victory for any American. What happened at UNC Chapel Hill tonight was a disgrace to the University, the UNC System, the town of Chapel Hill, and the state of North Carolina. For those who came to the event to speak out on behalf of illegal aliens and their desire for the Dream Act Amnesty and in-state tuition, the message they sent will harm their cause.
Those who used violence to triumph over free speech and the freedom to assemble will find that their cause will be both rejected and rebuked by the vast majority of Americans who find such savagery speaks ill of both the perpetrators and their issues.