NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Six people protesting David Duke’s appearance at a Senatorial debate at Dillard University were arrested and pepper sprayed by campus police last night.
New Orleans Police Department communications director Tyler Gamble issued a statement detailing the NOPD’s involvement in the protests and subsequent arrests.
“The NOPD assisted Dillard Police with crowd control,” Gamble said. “NOPD officers did not make any arrests that resulted in charges. No injuries were reported. And NOPD officers do not carry pepper spray and did not use any pepper spray.”
Gamble added that university police department officers are post-certified and have arrest powers, so they are legally able to arrest someone in Orleans Parish and take them to jail without consulting the NOPD.
Dillard spokesman David Grubb released a statement outlining the historically black university’s response to student protesters demonstrating against former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke’s inclusion in the debate.
“At no time did Dillard discourage protests; either by students or members of the community,” Grubb said in the statement. “We shared a dual responsibility of providing a safe space for those protesters and for the orderly management of the event.”
The crowd assembled before the debate, which was held in an auditorium and closed to media and the general public, remained peaceful, Grubb said.
“As the time of the debate neared, the protests became less peaceful,” Grubb said. “Some members of the crowd attempted to move past Dillard Police and into the debate area.”
Dillard Police officers issued repeated requests for the crowd to step back, but those demands were ignored.
“As a last resort, DUPD made the decision to use pepper spray to stop the advancement of the crowd,” Grubb said. “After a second attempt to enter the building, officers again utilized pepper spray as a deterrent.”
Representatives of the Socially Engaged Dillard University Students, a group formed to prevent “Neo-Nazi Klansman David Duke” from attending the debate, issued a statement announcing the arrests as they were occuring.
“After the conclusion of the debate, a small number of protesters began to block the entryways to the campus,” Grubb said. “After several requests to disperse, six individuals were arrested for obstructing traffic. One of those six was a Dillard student. They were transported to Central Lockup for booking.”
Grubb confirmed that the NOPD was not involved in the arrests, which carried the charge of obstruction of traffic. As of this morning, all six people had been released on their own recognisance, he said.
The proceedings surrounding the debate were challenging, Grubb said, but the university will use the occasion to grow stronger.
“Dillard University will continue its dialogue with the student body in dealing with the issues brought forth by these events,” he said.