Riot Police Called in to Disperse Appearance By David Duke
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Police in riot gear, some on horseback, moved in and fired flash-bang devices Wednesday to disperse demonstrators protesting a campus appearance by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
There were eight to 10 arrests, police said, and at least one protester was clubbed over the head as baton-wielding police in helmets and flak jackets moved against the crowd. Two officers were struck by rocks and suffered minor injuries.
Duke was at the California State University, Northridge, to debate civil rights leader Joe Hicks on a state ballot measure that would bar racial or gender preferences in public hiring, education and contracting.
Police said the arrests came after about 185 campus and Los Angeles police pushed the crowd away from the student union building where the debate was held.
Campus police Lt. Mark Hissong claimed several hundred protesters had tried to storm the front door of the building.
Inside, Duke told a crowd of 800 that affirmative action programs are unfair to whites. An overflow audience of 430 watched on closed-circuit television from another campus building.
Inside, Duke was shouted down, booed, hissed and laughed at when he said that affirmative action programs constitute ``discrimination against better qualified whites.″
``When blacks faced discrimination years ago, they called it just that, discrimination. Now that white people face discrimination, they call it affirmative action,″ Duke said.
Hicks told the crowd that affirmative action has helped to level the playing field.
``Discrimination is a fact of life for all too many people. ... Affirmative action has in fact done what it was supposed to,″ Hicks said.
Among the groups protesting Duke’s appearance was one identifying themselves as communists. They marched in a circle denouncing Duke and capitalism and yelled, ``Death to the fascists. Power to the workers.″
``I feel he should not be here,″ said Amir Andrews, 19, a black student. ``The money they put up to bring him here could have been used for something else _ education, computers, something like that.″
Supporters of the state ballot measure, Proposition 209, accused the college’s student association of inviting Duke to smear the measure.
``It’s obviously a cynical ploy. The same people who invited David Duke on campus are the ones protesting here today,″ said Dan Ruppel, 21, a member of the campus’ College Republicans.
Associated Students President Vladimir Cerna, who was key to bringing Duke to the campus, denied the charge.
``The fact that Mr. Duke was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan is completely irrelevant to the subject,″ he said. ``We anticipated exactly this type of reaction. If I had a chance to do it all again I would.″
As a Louisiana state representative in 1990, Duke wrote a bill to ban affirmative action. The bill, one of the first of its kind in the nation, passed the state House but died in the Senate.
Cerna said Gov. Pete Wilson and Proposition 209 Chairman Ward Connerly were asked along with Duke to participate in what was envisioned as a panel discussion. Both men said they were too busy.
Duke, whose bid for the U.S. Senate ended Saturday when he finished fourth in Louisiana’s primary, received $4,000 for appearing, as did Hicks. Students were upset because the money comes from a $120 fee each student pays.