Dozens protest speech by ‘racist’ conservative writer
Conservative writer David Horowitz spoke to a packed audience about “terror networks” at the Science and Engineering Classroom Building on Thursday night as dozens of other students protested the speaker outside.
The protests, organized by a coalition of progressive student groups, shouted “Racists — off our campus,” among other chants.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center, which the speaker leads, last month named the University of Houston one of the top ten schools that support terrorism. Thursday’s event was organized by the UH chapter of Young America’s Foundation.
The room reached capacity before Horowitz’s speech began and the fire marshal prohibited anymore attendees from entering, including reporters from The Cougar. Shortly after the event started, dozens of protesters left marching, opening up room inside, but security did not want anyone entering after Horowitz began speaking.
Posters and signs were placed around campus in advance of Horowitz’s speech, some claiming ties between terrorist organization Hamas and Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP. A progressive student coalition consisting of members from SJP, Students for Democratic Society and other political organizations on campus organized the planned protest in a day, said pharmacy graduate student Sarah Zidat.
Zidat said she and other protesters listened to the introduction of Horowitz’s speech before Zidat stood up and yelled, “David, your bigotry is not welcome on campus, and we do not welcome your presence here either.”
Protesters from inside the Science and Engineering Classroom Building marched outside, meeting up with dozens more, and all began chanting “Racists — off our campus.” Then they marched down the side of the Science and Engineering Classroom Building also shouting “Undocumented — Unafraid” and “Black Lives Matter.”
The group of protesters stopped in front of the Science and Engineering Research Center and shifted between shouting their chants and speaking aloud why they stand for Palestine.
One student, history doctoral candidate Patrick Higgins, spoke during the protest about the significance of Thursday being the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a message from the British government in 1917 that gave support for a home for Jews in Palestine.
Higgins, who is affiliated with Students for Democratic Society, said they are always willing to raise their voices on behalf of Palestinian people. He said he rejects Horowitz calling the university a part of a “terror network.”
“He wants to conflate the T word, knowing the social atmosphere of this country, knowing about anti-Arab bigotry,” Higgins said. “He wants to conflate that with this buzzword that he uses, terrorism, and we say no.”
Paul Schnee, who works in the automobile industry and just moved from Los Angeles to Houston in May, came to watch Horowitz speech. Schnee said he has seen Horowitz speak many times before, mostly through attending luncheons in L.A. put on by the David Horowitz Freedom Center called “Wednesday Morning Club.”
“He is one of the premier voice that speaks and writes against the left,” Schnee said. “Anything he has to say on the matter is worth listening too.”
Schnee said Horowitz’s conversion from a “man of the left” to a conservative in the 1980s is probably equal to “St. Paul on the road to Damascus.” He said he expected a protest to break out, and they usually happen when Horowitz speaks at college campuses.
“Because, particularly, what they want to do is shut down free speech,” Schnee said. “They’re all for free speech, just as long as they are the ones doing the talking.”
History senior Brant Roberts is an officer with SJP and spoke out at the protest against Horowitz. Roberts said Horowitz is not welcome to speak on campus because he is not willing to engage in a dialogue.
“It creates an environment where our students will feel endangered, and could give rise to more talks like this who are clearly white supremacists,” Roberts said. “We just don’t want to give a free space for white supremacists to come here, and to feel as if this is a place for them to come and speak.”
Video by Corbin Ayres/The Cougar