Angry students clashed with police at Dillard University Wednesday evening, as protests against an appearance by former KKK leader David Duke went south.
Duke, 66, who is running for a position in the Louisiana Senate, was attending the historically black Louisiana University as part of debate with other candidates.
Neither students nor media are allowed inside, a rule set by sponsor Raycom Media, something that led to clashes between protesters of all races and the police who had formed a human wall to block the entrance.
Twitter user Nick Reinmann, who was inside the Georges Auditorium where the protests and discussion were both occurring, tweeted footage of struggling protesters with the caption ‘I can taste the pepper spray.’
The video appeared to show a police officer being pelted with a water bottle while struggling with a female protester, who was screaming.
At one point a white male protester appears to shout ‘They’re people! They’re not animals!’ before being dragged off with an arm around his neck.
The melee continues, as bodies are pushed and pulled, and another white man screams ‘Let her go!’ – apparently in reference to a woman being held by police.
Suddenly a young black man, who has apparently been scaling the side of the building, falls onto the crowd below, possibly after trying to swing up and under the door frame.
Police grab his legs and demand he let go of the door, while red lasers – presumably from tasers – dance over his chest. Eventually they pull him down.
Photographs from the protests also show a police officer being ushered away having been blasted in the face with pepper spray in the melee. It was not immediately clear whether it was an accident.
Dillard tweeted at 9:30pm that ‘No students were attacked for exercising their rights. No students were arrested.’
But according to The Advocate at least four people were detained during the protests, and one arrested for trespassing.
Footage shot by The Advocate earlier in the night shows the protesters peacefully chanting ‘No Duke, no KKK, no fascist USA.’
A smaller group also formed, asking protesters not to give Duke any more publicity.
But the scene was very different by 8.30pm, when the clashes were kicking off.
Duke was at the building to debate with state treasurer John Kennedy, US Representatives Charles Boustany and John Fleming, public service commissioner Foster Campbell and attorney Caroline Fayard.
He, like all of the candidates, had gained at least five per cent in statewide polls, guaranteeing him a spot on the debating panel per rules set down by Raycom.
On Saturday Dillard told Inside Higher Ed that it did not know Duke was going to be in the debate when it agreed to play host.
‘We were requested to provide a space for an undetermined number of candidates for a forum that would not be open to the public,’ the university said in a statement.
‘Dillard University does not endorse the candidacy of any of the candidates who will appear at this debate,’ it added.
As the clashes continued, the university continued to distance itself from the talks, adding: ‘Dillard has hosted political debates for years. We don’t do this for publicity or money.’
By 10pm the debate had ended and Duke was escorted from the hall by a ring of police officers.
The earlier clashes had died down, but the anger by protesters was still burning: Several of them surrounded the car, kicking and hitting it, as it drove by.
And other students lay and stood in front of exits to block vehicles from leaving. Some said they wanted an explanation from the univeristy’s president, Dr Walter M Kimbrough.
Police also forcibly divided up a group that had linked arms in order to stop Duke’s car from leaving.
Kimbrough himself took to Twitter before the debate Tuesday accusing Raycom, who were screening the debate on their local television channel WVUE-TV, of rigging the debate poll results to make sure Duke would be included in order to boost ratings.
‘Pretty clear polling rigged, as Trump would say, for ratings,’ he wrote. ‘Any protests become part of reality show masquerading as news. #WakeUp.
Duke, a former ‘grand wizard’ of the Ku Klux Klan, has run for Senate before, as well as the US House of Representatives, Louisiana Governor and, in 1988, President.
In recent years he has claimed ‘respect’ for ‘all the peoples of the world’ and portrayed himself as an anti-globalist and anti-colonialist. He left the KKK in 1980, citing a distaste for its association with violence.
But he has never been able to shake his connection to white supremacy, nor his remarks in the 1970s.
And in a 1978 edition of KKK newspaper The Crusader, he advocated ‘the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and black races,’ and ‘freeing… American media and government from subservient Jewish interests.’
Duke has repeatedly backed Donald Trump, who ultimately disavowed Duke, but only after a long period of equivocating.
Duke said in July – one day after Trump became the Republican candidate – that he made this move for the Louisiana senate because ‘the climate of this country has moved in my direction.’