- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

A speech by Rep. Tom Tancredo at Michigan State University turned ugly Thursday night as protesters pulled fire alarms, spat at the audience and fought with the event’s student organizers.

About 15 demonstrators began chanting and arguing with members of the audience before Mr. Tancredo’s speech. Shortly before the Colorado Republican and opponent of illegal entry was scheduled to take the stage, a fire alarm went off, forcing campus security to evacuate the building.

Outside, protesters punched and spat on Kyle Bristow, chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, which sponsored the event along with the College Republicans. Another student, Mike Wolin, said his camera was destroyed by a demonstrator, who threw it against a wall.

“Cameras got smashed, people got hit, and all of the people opposed to the event were giving speeches, calling us racists and bigots, saying that MSU is no place for Tom Tancredo,” said Tyler Whitney, a member of Young Americans for Freedom.

After security reopened the building, another fire alarm went off almost immediately after Mr. Tancredo took the stage. This time, the congressman was allowed to speak, but protesters disrupted his remarks with booing and shouting.

“He tried to continue, but it got so loud that people couldn’t hear him,” said Mr. Whitney. “People were shouting, making rude remarks. It got really frustrating.”

Mr. Tancredo, who agreed to speak free of charge, was forced to cut his speech short and had to forgo answering questions from the audience.

Afterward, student organizers met at Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. When they finished, they discovered that someone had slashed the tires on two of their cars.

Mr. Whitney said he expected protesters, but nothing like the melee that erupted.

“I know a lot of people don’t like Tom Tancredo, but I thought they would allow him to speak,” said Mr. Whitney. “I thought there would be protesters, and I’m fine with that. I protest liberal events all the time, but I believe everyone has a right to free speech and apparently they don’t.”

Mr. Tancredo sent an e-mail that night to his spokesman, Carlos Espinosa, describing the night’s events.

“The speech had lots of disruptions by protestors trying to silence me,” he said. “Apparently they decided ahead of time on facebook.com that they would not allow me to speak.”

Mr. Espinosa said the reception was the worst that Mr. Tancredo has ever experienced. The congressman, who is exploring a run for president on an anti-illegal-immigration platform, makes at least 100 speeches per year.

The protesters came from groups including Students for Economic Justice, By Any Means Necessary, La Raza and MEXA, also called MEChA.

Young Americans for Freedom plans to ask Michigan State University, in East Lansing, to condemn the protesters.

“If MSU truly values the First Amendment, they will condemn the actions of those who disrupted the event,” said Mr. Bristow in a statement.

Michigan State University could not be reached for comment yesterday by press time.

In October, protesters at Columbia University took the stage and interrupted a speech by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who had been invited to speak on campus by the College Republicans.

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