Students for a Democratic Society is at it again. Not content with closing down one speaker that they did not agree with and disrupting another speaker, SDS has now formed a new student organization called the UNC-Chapel Hill Protester’s Defense Committee and has now filed complaints against campus police.
The complaint, which can be read in full here, alleges that campus police violently assaulted protesters, using physical force, tasers and pepper spray.
The incidents in question have been caught on videotape by a number of sources. In this ABC news clip, you can see protesters fighting with police while trying to break into the room in which Tancredo was speaking. No one was tased, and pepper spray was sprayed in the air. Police officers who were pepper sprayed as part of their training have informed me that anyone who was sprayed directly in the face with pepper spray would not have been getting up and walking out of the building.
In their complaint, SDS alleges that the police action was politically motivated. They argue that police action on Franklin Street after the national championship and the flash rave in Davis was far more lenient. Considering that no police officers were being attacked and no one was trying to disrupt a hosted speaker at these incidents, it is not surprising that more force was used in the protests.
Now let’s review what happened here. Students for a Democratic Society decided that some people did not have the right to free speech. They then decided to stop them from speaking. In the process, they assaulted police officers, disrupted a University function and smashed a window. As a result, one member of SDS, Haley Koch, was arrested for disorderly conduct. She is a Morehead-Cain scholar. She should be an outstanding example for all Carolina students. Instead, she has spent her time at UNC compiling a criminal record for a number of protests going back to last year’s sit-in at Chancellor Moeser’s office. As a result, she could lose her scholarship.
SDS was completely unapologetic about this. They proudly took credit for driving Tancredo off campus, and blamed campus police for “escalating the violence of the situation.”
The next week, unknown individuals aligned with the protesters defaced campus property with a number of obscene signs. Then, protesters tried to disrupt another speaker, former congressman Virgil Goode. Campus Police were more prepared this time, and as a result, six people were arrested. None of them were UNC students, however, SDS has stepped up to the plate to defend them, saying that the arrests were unwarranted. Campus police should pursue further investigations to try and discover if these individuals coordinated their activities with SDS.
Now, SDS has leveled unfounded claims of brutality at campus police. SDS is the organization which has organized the violent intimidation of speakers with whom they disagree. This alone should be enough to call into question the propriety of their continued existence as a recognized student organization. While claiming to defend tolerance, SDS showed themselves to be the most intolerant of all the actors in this cast of intolerant individuals. Youth for Western Civilization and SDS are both intolerant of people that are different than them, but SDS has taken this a step further to engaging in acts of violence against those with whom they disagree. By attacking free speech they have assaulted the very foundations of democracy. There is room for free speech on our campus. What we do not have room for is the violent suppression of alternative opinions.