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Friday, April 24, 2009

UNC student, six others, arrested for protesting anti-immigration speeches

Posted by on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 12:00 PM

By now, the news has circulated widely that six protesters were arrested at UNC-Chapel Hill on Wednesday night for disorderly conduct at a speech hosted by Youth for Western Civilization, a campus group that opposes "radical multiculturalism" and "mass immigration."

According to the arrest report (PDF, 748 KB), three men, and three women, aged 18 to 30, were arrested for "behaving in a manner that was disturbing to others," and released on $100 bond, or written promise of bond. Their trials are set for June 1 in Orange County District Court in Chapel Hill. Though none were current UNC students, all of the individuals listed Orange County addresses.

"I regret that six protesters had to be arrested, but they gave us no choice," UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement. "They ignored our warnings, and their disruptive behavior was completely at odds with what we expect at Carolina. I want everyone to know that these six people do not represent what Carolina stands for when it comes to freedom of expression.”

Thorp had previously apologized to former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo for a speech last week, also organized by YWC, that was disrupted by protesters, and pepper spray from UNC police. In his statement, Thorpe said that campus police "will pursue criminal charges if any are warranted."

An investigation into the protest has so far led to one student's arrest. Yesterday morning, UNC Police arrested senior Haley Koch, as she walked out of class, for "disturbing the peace at an educational institution" during the Tancredo speech. That charge carried a $1,000 bond, which Koch has posted. She will stand trial on May 25. (See the arrest report here - PDF, 128 KB.)

Koch declined comment in an e-mail, but said that she will be represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

"Activists at UNC see this police intimidation as part of a broader effort by the UNC administration to harass students and activists and suppress protest movements on campus," the Durham-based group UNC Protest Defense Committee the UNC Protest Defense Committee said in a release. "The arrest of Haley Koch and police harassment of other activists has sent a chill through Carolina community.

SCSJ The group has planned a press conference today at noon, at UNC's South Building, to decry "Chapel Hill and UNC Police harrassment and targeting of activists." Read the full release (DOC, 20 KB).

In addition, Hannah Simmons, UNC president of Students for a Democratic Society, was questioned on Tuesday about the Tancredo protest, although she insists she wasn't at the event.

UNC Police Public Information Officer Randy Young said the questioning of Simmons carried no incident report, and was not public record because it is part of an ongoing investigation.

Young directed the Indy to UNC News Services for comment on the incidents. Special Projects Producer Karen Moon declined comment beyond Thorp's Wednesday statement.

Ed. note: This story has been corrected, to reflect the source of a press release, provided to the Indy by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, but authored by a student group called the UNC Protest Defense Committee. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp's name has also been corrected.

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